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The Trump administration stepped up its campaign of blaming China for the deadly coronavirus pandemic, with a top aide suggesting Beijing sent airline passengers to spread the infection worldwide.
“The virus was spawned in Wuhan province, patient zero was in November,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The Chinese, behind the shield of the World Health Organization, for two months hid the virus from the world and then sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese on aircraft to Milan, New York and around the world to seed that.”
Milan and New York went on to become hot spots for the pandemic. However, researchers at New York University determined last month that the explosion of Covid-19 cases in the New York City area resulted largely from infected patients who flew in from Europe, including the U.K., France, Austria and the Netherlands.
“They could have kept it in Wuhan,” Navarro said. “Instead, it became a pandemic. That’s why I say the Chinese did that to Americans and they are responsible.”
Navarro’s comments add to the almost daily barrage of U.S. attacks on China, including suggestions that the virus escaped from a laboratory in the central city of Wuhan. Chinese diplomats and state media have waged their own campaign pushing back against Trump’s claims that Beijing kept the world in the dark, while raising doubts about whether Wuhan was even the place where the virus first made the jump to humans.
A social media posting published by the Communist Party-run People’s Daily newspaper on Saturday cited Trump’s comments a day earlier that American scientists started work on a coronavirus vaccine as early as Jan. 11 as evidence that the U.S. had existing infections. “This proves that the coronavirus had spread earlier than Jan. 11,” the posting said, adding that “Trump and some U.S. politicians and media outlets have been lying.”
Trump’s date, if accurate, wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the U.S. received the necessary genetic data from China. While China didn’t release the virus’s genome sequence to World Health Organization until Jan. 12, the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center reportedly published similar information on open platforms a day earlier. Trump also qualified his remarks to say that vaccine work was begun “within hours of the virus’ genetic code being posted online” — a line Chinese media omitted.
On Thursday, Trump said that while he still suspects the outbreak may be connected to the Wuhan virology lab, he said it was unlikely that the Chinese deliberately unleashed the pathogen. “I think more likely it got out of control,” he said.
Navarro also dismissed complaints offered by whistle-blower Rick Bright, who had served as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until the end of last month.
“I don’t mourn the loss of people when they leave this bureaucracy,” Navarro said. “There’s always going to be somebody better to replace them, somebody more loyal, not to the president necessarily, but to the Trump agenda. That’s what’s important.”
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