China accused the United States yesterday of whipping up panic over a fast-spreading coronavirus with travel restrictions and evacuations as Chinese stocks plunged on the first day back from the extended Lunar New Year holiday.
The death toll in China from the newly identified virus, which emerged in Wuhan, capital of the central province of Hubei, rose to 361 as of Sunday, up 57 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said.
China accused the United States of spreading fear by pulling its nationals out and restricting travel instead of offering significant aid. Relations between the two sides had just begun to recover after a long and bruising trade war.
Washington has “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, noting that the WHO had advised against trade and travel curbs. “It is precisely developed countries like the United States with strong epidemic prevention capabilities and facilities that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” she added, saying countries should make reasonable, calm and science-based judgments. There was no immediate official comment from the United States.
Meanwhile, China’s top leadership yesterday admitted “shortcomings and difficulties” in its response to the coronavirus outbreak and the government said it “urgently” needed medical supplies to battle the outbreak.
China’s elite Politburo Standing Committee called for improvements to the “national emergency management system” following “shortcoming and difficulties exposed in the response to the epidemic,” according to the official Xinhua news agency. “It is necessary to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade,” it added.
Meanwhile, a 21-year-old Cameroonian student in China has become the first African known to be diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus. In a statement, Yangtze University said the student was being treated in hospital in southern Jingzhou city after contracting the illness while on a visit to Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak.
He had returned to Jingzhou, where he lived, on 19 January, before a lockdown was imposed in Wuhan to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200 people.