Coronavirus | China condemns Mike Pompeo’s remarks branding COVID-19 as ‘Wuhan virus’

Last Friday, the U.S. Secretary of State repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus”, pointing to the Chinese city where the virus first emerged in December last year

Updated - December 03, 2021 06:51 am IST

Published - March 09, 2020 05:26 pm IST - Beijing

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

China on Monday condemned U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for branding COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus”, terming his remarks as “despicable behaviour” and an attempt to stigmatise the Communist nation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially named the novel coronavirus as COVID-19 , Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing here responding to Mr. Pompeo’s comments.

“Certain U.S. politicians turning a blind eye to science and the decision of the WHO has rushed to stigmatise China and Wuhan under the pretext of COVID-19. We condemn such despicable behaviour,” Mr. Geng said.

Last Friday, Mr. Pompeo repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus”, pointing to the Chinese city where the virus first emerged in December last year and also blamed Beijing for not sharing enough information about the disease which put the U.S. “behind the curve”.

According to the WHO, COVID-19 cases have been reported in over 100 countries and regions including the U.S., India, South Korea, Italy and Iran.

The WHO report said a total of 105,586 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide as of Sunday, an increase of 3,656 infections from the previous day, including 3,610 new cases outside China.

Explained | How is India containing COVID-19?

Mr. Pompeo seemed to blame the Chinese government for the outbreak of the virus, CNN said in its report on his comments.

“Remember this is the Wuhan coronavirus that’s caused this and the information that we got on the front end of this thing wasn’t perfect and has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve,” Mr. Pompeo said on CNBC .

“It has proven incredibly frustrating to work with the Chinese Communist Party to get our hands around the data set, which will ultimately be the solution to both getting the vaccine and attacking this risk,” he added.

Though he did acknowledge he was “happy” with the efforts China had taken to contain the spread of the virus, Mr. Pompeo said, “no less authority than the Chinese Communist Party said it came from Wuhan”.

“We have pretty high confidence that we know where this began, and we have high confidence, too, that there was information that could have been made available more quickly and data that could have been provided and shared among health professionals across the world,” he said.

On March 5, another Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the origin of the virus is yet to be determined.

“It is yet undetermined where the virus originated. Wherever its origin may be, China and all the other affected countries are victims faced with the challenge in containing its spread,” Mr. Zhao said.

Also read | Finally, India shares two SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences

While there is appreciation around the world for China’s efforts to contain the virus with virtually locking down the worst-hit Wuhan and Hubei province, with a population of over 50 million people, Beijing also faced criticism for acting late as over five million people from Wuhan left for the Chinese New Year holidays by the time the measures were initiated.

Responding to Mr. Pompeo’s comments that China did not share information, Mr. Geng said that Beijing shared the genome sequence of COVID-19 with WHO and other countries in an “open and transparent and responsible manner”.

He said China positively responded to concerns and stepped up international cooperation.

“What China has done won precious time for the global fight against the epidemic. We make positive contributions and all the world bears witness to this. Pompeo attempt to smear China’s epidemic response will never succeed,” Mr. Geng added.

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