- China has accused the US of creating and spreading “fear” worldwide about the deadly Wuhan coronavirus, which has now killed more than 360 people, and infected 17,000.
- Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, told reporters Monday the US was “consistently creating and spreading fear, which is a bad example.”
- She accused US authorities of overreacting to the outbreak, citing US decisions to withdraw staff from embassies in China and bar people who recently visited China from entering the US.
- The World Health Organisation last week encouraged countries to take “measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease,” but stopped short of advising entry bans.
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Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry told reporters Monday that the US is “consistently creating and spreading fear, which is a bad example.”
The novel coronavirus – also known as 2019-nCoV – originated in Wuhan, central China, but has now spread to more than 20 countries.
Citing US decisions to withdraw some staff from embassies in China, and bar people who have recently visited China from entering the US, she accused US authorities of an “overreaction” and saying its response is in direct opposition to advice given by the World Health Organisation.
The US military in South Korea is also implementing a 14-day self-quarantine for all service members recently returning to South Korea from mainland China.
“Even American media and experts have expressed doubts about the US government’s measures, saying its restrictions on China are precisely what the WHO rejects, and that the US is turning from overconfidence to panic and overreaction,” Hua said.
The WHO last week encouraged countries to take “measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease,” but stopped short of advising entry bans such as the one in the US.
Countries should avoid “unnecessary restrictions of international traffic,” it said.
The US’ National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, also told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that “right now there is no reason for Americans to panic.”
Hua also said Monday that huge US attention on the Wuhan coronavirus is in sharp contrast to what China perceives as a lack of attention being paid to the US’ annual winter flu outbreak, calling it “thought-provoking.”
“In fact, according to a recent CDC report, the US flu from 2019 to 2020 has infected 19 million people and killed at least 10,000,” she said.
She noted that the US has just 11 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, adding: “These numbers are thought-provoking.”
Hua then went on to compare the US’ reaction to that of Canada, which she said has been more measured in its approach.
“I also noted that the Canadian Minister of Health said Canada won’t follow the US and impose travel restrictions on Chinese or foreign nationals who have been to China,” she said.
“Canada believes the ban of entry has no basis, which is a sharp contrast to the US behaviour.”
As of Monday, at least 362 people have died, and over 17,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus. Three hundred and sixty-one of those deaths took place in China, and on Saturday, a man in the Philippines became the first person outside China to die of the virus.
According to China’s state-run CGTN news network, 17,237 of the confirmed infections are in mainland China, while 148 are abroad.
Countries closely linked to China launch a ‘quieter’ response to the virus
The US reaction to the spread of the coronavirus is in sharp contrast to the approach taken by many countries in Asia that are closely aligned to China in terms of foreign policy, trade, and investment.
The response to the coronavirus has been “quieter” in several such countries, The New York Times reported Sunday.
It noted that Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, said there was “no reason to bar visitors from mainland China.”
Duterte has presided over a move towards China during his presidency, eschewing the country’s traditionally strong relationship with the US.
“I need China more than anybody else at this time of our national life,” Duterte said in 2018, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.
The health minister in Indonesia also said it was “very easy” to prevent the coronavirus, The Times reported. “To prevent it is very easy as long as your immunity is good,” said Terawan Agus Putranto.
China is investing heavily in many southeast Asian countries as it looks to expand its soft power in the region, a move which critics say forces those countries to avoid criticising China.
Critics have argued that China is engaging in debt-trap diplomacy – a strategy of extracting political concessions out of a country that owes it money.
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