French President Emmanuel Macron has dismissed the idea that China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic could be a role model for democracies, according to the Financial Times.
The British newspaper cited Macron, in an interview, saying that there was no comparison between countries where information flows freely and those where truth is suppressed.
“Given these differences, the choices made and what China is today, which I respect, let’s not be so naive as to say it’s been much better at handling this,” Macron told the newspaper.
“We don’t know. There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about,” he added.
Macron’s comments came as China denied suspicions reportedly raised by U.S. intelligence sources that the coronavirus might have originated in a medical laboratory rather than a food market in the city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, authorities in Wuhan revised their count of coronavirus deaths sharply upwards by 1,290 to 3,869.
The new figure was due to late reports from medical institutions and the fact that some coronavirus patients died at home while hospitals were overloaded in the early stages of the epidemic, the provincial government said.
European governments have faced similar difficulties accounting for all deaths in their statistics about the illness.
Macron, however, expressed support for the World Health Organisation during a video meeting of G7 leaders late Thursday, his office said.
The White House accused the WHO of a “lack of transparency and chronic mismanagement of the pandemic” in a statement released after the meeting, chaired by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said he is halting funding for the global body.
In his interview with the Financial Times, Macron also warned that abandoning freedoms would pose a threat to Western democracies.
“You can’t abandon your fundamental DNA on the grounds that there is a health crisis,” he said.
The French president said the European Union was at “a moment of truth” amid the economic and health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Macron called for solidarity within the European Union, urging reluctant northern members to band together and support Spain and Italy – where more than 40,000 people have died from COVID-19.
“We are at a moment of truth, which is to decide whether the European Union is a political project or just a market project.
“I think it’s a political project … We need financial transfers and solidarity, if only so that Europe holds on,” Macron said.
France has joined Spain and Italy in pushing for a medium-term EU economic recovery fund worth hundreds of billions of euros, after the bloc’s sluggish and divided response to the crisis infuriated even pro-EU Italians.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has now twice apologised to Italy for the lack of support in the first weeks of the epidemic.
But while the bloc has agreed massive short-term economic action and has overcome initial national bans on transfers of medical equipment to other countries, there is still no agreement on the investment fund.
The Financial Times reported that the French president banged his desk repeatedly with his hands for emphasis, and said the EU and the euro single currency would be threatened if richer members did not support measures to help the pandemic-stricken countries of southern Europe.
The Netherlands and Germany have long opposed any jointly issued European debt, such as the so-called coronabonds proposed by Italy. (dpa/NAN)