U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson blamed China for the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, arguing in an op-ed for the British newspaper The Times on Thursday that Beijing suppressed data about its spread.
China, Johnson wrote, “tried to suppress the news” internationally after the coronavirus emerged in a wet market in the city of Wuhan. He said Beijing later selectively shared information with international officials as the outbreak worsened.
“Had China done the right things at the right time, more of its own population, and the rest of the world, might have been spared the most serious impact of this disease,” Johnson wrote. “When the crisis finally abates we should take stock of the outcome and evaluate the costs of this breakdown in international collaboration.”
President TrumpDonald John TrumpNorth Korea asking for aid, while denying any coronavirus cases: report Iranian official maintains Tehran has ‘no knowledge’ of American hostage’s whereabouts Unemployment claims surge to 3.2 million as coronavirus devastates economy MORE has also blamed China for the virus and repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus” publicly, though he appears to have shifted his tone in recent days. Trump’s words were criticized by people who said it was racist to call the coronavirus the “China virus.” Trump said he was just referring to where the virus started.
Chinese officials, as the virus spreads internationally, have floated baseless conspiracy theories that the illness originated in the U.S., prompting Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoChina: Pompeo has ‘sinister motive’ for pushing ‘Wuhan virus’ language Hillicon Valley: Coronavirus deal includes funds for mail-in voting | Twitter pulled into fight over virus disinformation | State AGs target price gouging | Apple to donate 10M masks Family of American hostage in Iran says he has died MORE to warn Yang Jiechi, director of Beijing’s Office of Foreign Affairs, against promoting such theories.
“The Secretary stressed that this is not the time to spread disinformation and outlandish rumors, but rather a time for all nations to come together to fight this common threat,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a readout of a mid-March call between the two.
“It is bad enough when conspiracy-theory cranks spread dangerous misinformation around the world. It is far worse, and more dangerous, when malign misinformation is spread by a government’s officials,” Johnson said in the op-ed. “And that is exactly what the People’s Republic of China has been doing, spreading false accusations about the origin and spread of the coronavirus.”