News Week|The American ambassador to the U.K. has launched fresh criticism of China for allegedly suppressing initial reports of the coronavirus outbreak, furthering President Donald Trump’s efforts to shift blame for the pandemic to Beijing.
Ambassador Woody Johnson, a Trump ally who has been criticized for politicizing his diplomatic role, made the comments in an op-ed for British newspaper The Times on Thursday.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party has been criticized for its sluggish response to the outbreak, which first appeared in the central city of Wuhan in December. Authorities silenced early whistleblowers and failed to notify the international community of the outbreak’s magnitude.
“First it tried to suppress the news,” Johnson said of the Chinese government, which has now seemingly curbed the coronavirus spread thanks to tough restrictions on affected regions. “Had China done the right things at the right time, more of its own population, and the rest of the world, might have been spared the most serious impact of this disease.”
Trump has been at the forefront of those criticizing the Chinese for their coronavirus response, though he initially praised President Xi Jinping’s reaction and cited conversations with the Chinese leader for spurious claims that the outbreak would be over by April.
The president has since pivoted to a blame game, even describing the pandemic as “Chinese Virus” despite concerns that such rhetoric could breed racist sentiment. China too, has adopted a belligerent stance, with one foreign ministry spokesperson even suggesting that the U.S. Army was behind the outbreak.
Chinese state media has also accused Trump and senior officials of trying to shift the blame to China to distract from the administration’s own poor handling of the outbreak. There have been more than 69,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 1,000 deaths and 619 recoveries.
The pandemic has underscored the value of international cooperation and intelligence sharing, but as the crisis drags on it appears to be breeding further enmity between the U.S. and its rivals — and perhaps even its traditional allies in Europe.
In his op-ed, Johnson lamented the lack of cooperation in recent months. “When the crisis finally abates we should take stock of the outcome and evaluate the costs of this breakdown in international collaboration,” he wrote.
World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
- Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
- Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.
- Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
- Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
- If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
- Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.
Mask and glove usage
- Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
- Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
- Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
- Do not reuse single-use masks.
- Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
- The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.