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Trump hints at possible repercussions if China spreads misinformation on COVID-19

China ran a disinformation campaign to cover up the coronavirus crisis for weeks, putting the rest of the world at a disadvantage in combating the spread, alleged Congresswoman Elise Stefanik

twitter-logoPTI | April 14, 2020 | Updated 13:47 IST
Trump hints at possible repercussions if China spreads misinformation on COVID-19
US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump has hinted that there would be consequences for China's alleged misinformation to the international community and the WHO on coronavirus, that originated from its Wuhan city last year, and has claimed 119,666 lives with nearly two million infections globally.

Trump shot back at a reporter on Monday during his White House press conference on coronavirus when repeatedly asked why there are no consequences for China. "How do you know that there are no consequences?" Trump asked.

"I wouldn't tell you. China will find out. Why would I tell you?" Trump replied when repeatedly asked if China was going to face the consequences of the alleged misinformation. "You're going to find out," Trump said as members of the US Congress ramped up their rhetoric and move against China.

Senator Steve Daines sent a letter to Trump urging him to end the US government's reliance on medical supplies and equipment from China and bring back drug manufacturing jobs to America in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. "The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear how relying upon China for medicine or essential medical equipment and components is detrimental to our national security and endangers public health," Daines wrote.

"It is critically important to ensure that legislation is fully implemented as quickly as possible and that the US continues to be the world leader in biomedicine, pharmaceutical development, and medical innovation," he wrote.

Four Republican lawmakers on Monday introduced a legislation to reduce the reliance on China.

Protecting our Pharmaceutical Supply Chain from China Act gives companies economic incentives to manufacture pharmaceuticals and medical devices in the US, makes it easier to know which country a drug came from by creating a list of the country of origin of all drugs marketed in the United States, and prohibits federally qualified health facilities from purchasing pharmaceutical products from China, it said.

China ran a disinformation campaign to cover up the coronavirus crisis for weeks, putting the rest of the world at a disadvantage in combating the spread, alleged Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.

"We have become far too dependent on China, and it is time that we equip our domestic pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to be able to efficiently produce these items here in the United States," she said.

Congressman Mike Gallagher alleged that the Chinese Communist Party's outrageous threats to withhold life saving drugs from the US endangers public health and should open eyes to the dangerous over-reliance on China in medical supply chain.

"This is a national security imperative that to many Americans, is a matter of life and death. It's past time for us to develop an aggressive plan to move critical pharmaceutical supply chains away from China," he said.

Congressman James Comer along with members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform wrote a letter to the Director-General of the World Health Organization requesting documents relating to their assistance in the Chinese government's coronavirus propaganda efforts.

The WHO receives significant financial support from American taxpayers, including as much as USD 513 million in 2017.

The letter notes that as recently as January, the WHO promoted Chinese propaganda on social media in claiming that the coronavirus does not spread by human transmission.

The organisation likewise criticised travel restrictions implemented by President Trump, praised China's efforts to fight coronavirus even as the Communist regime was jailing doctors, and bowed to Chinese influence by delaying labeling COVID-19 a pandemic, the lawmakers said.

Another group of Senators - Marco Rubio, Marsha Blackburn, John Cornyn, Kelly Loeffler, and Joni Ernst in a letter urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Kelly Craft to address the crackdown of free speech in China and in countries across four continents including Turkey, Bangladesh, Niger, and Cambodia, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Chinese Communist Party is using this public health emergency as a thin veil to cover a crackdown on peaceful dissent and freedom of speech," the Senators wrote.

"Sadly, China is not unique in its utilization of the pandemic as an excuse to institute surveillance measures or draft new laws that are not necessary, proportionate, transparent, or time-bound," they said.

"Therefore, we call on the Department of State to document acts of harassment, arrest, increased surveillance, or other forms of suppression or criminalisation by regimes in retribution for those nations' citizens expressing their freedoms through media, social media, peaceful assembly, or other peaceful means," the Senators said.

Globally, the coronavirus pandemic has killed 119,666 people and infected almost two million people, with US being the worst affected country leading in the number of infections and deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

INDIA CORONAVIRUS TRACKER: BusinessToday.In brings you a daily tracker as coronavirus cases continue to spread. Here is the state-wise data on total cases, fatalities and recoveries in one comprehensive graphic

Also read: Coronavirus in US: New York death toll breaches 10,000; new hotspots begin to emerge

Also read: Coronavirus Live Updates: India enters lockdown 2.0 as COVID-19 cases cross 10,000 mark

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