WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Monday (Apr 27) that China could have stopped the coronavirus before it swept the globe and said his administration was conducting “serious investigations” into what happened.
“We’re doing very serious investigations … We are not happy with China,” Trump said at a White House news conference.
“There are a lot of ways you can hold them accountable.
“We believe it could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped quickly and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world.”
Trump’s criticism was the latest from his administration to target China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, which began late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has grown into a global pandemic.
The US president said he may seek damages from China. Trump was asked about a recent German newspaper editorial which called on China to pay Germany US$165 billion in reparations because of economic damage done by the virus.
Asked if the US would consider doing the same, the US president said “we can do something much easier than that”.
“Germany is looking at things, we are looking at things,” he said. “We are talking about a lot more money than Germany’s talking about.”
“We haven’t determined the final amount yet,” Trump said. “It’s very substantial.
“This is worldwide damage,” he said. “This is damage to the US, but this is damage to the world.”
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US “strongly believed” Beijing failed to report the outbreak in a timely manner and covered up how dangerous the respiratory illness caused by the virus was.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Twitter on Monday Pompeo should “stop playing the political game. Better save energy on saving lives”.
The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 207,000 people around the world, including more than 55,000 in the United States, according to a Reuters tally.
Earlier on Monday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro accused China of sending low-quality and even counterfeit coronavirus antibody testing kits to the United States and of “profiteering” from the pandemic.
Navarro, an outspoken critic of Beijing whom Trump has appointed to work on supply-line issues relating to the health crisis, said more testing both for the virus and antibodies was vital to getting Americans currently in lockdown back to work.
SCHOOLS REOPENING, ELECTION GOING AHEAD
Trump said on Monday he expects to see a “lot” of US schools reopen after being shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Many (state governors) are thinking about their school system,” Trump said at the briefing.
“Not a long way to go in the school system right now, for this season, for this year, but I think you’ll see a lot of schools open up. Even if it’s for a very short period of time, I think it would be a good thing.”
“Young people seem to do very well,” he added in an apparent reference to studies showing that children do not get as sick from the virus as older people.
“So I know that there are some governors that aren’t necessarily ready to open up their states, but they may be ready to open up their school systems,” Trump said.
“That’s their choice, but the word is safety,” he said. “Rapid – but safety.”
He also dismissed allegations by his opponent Joe Biden that he would try to delay the November election as the United States struggles to quell the outbreak.
“I never even thought of changing the date of the election. Why would I do that?” Trump told reporters at the White House.
The president cannot by law unilaterally change the date of the election, which is due on Nov 3.