The world is "paying a big price" for China hiding the initial information on the deadly coronavirus, US President Donald Trump said on Thursday, ramping up his charges that Beijing is responsible for the current global public health crisis due to the pandemic.
"It would have been much better if we had known about this a number of months earlier. It could have been contained to that one area in China where it started," Trump told reporters at a White House press conference.
The coronavirus pandemic has sickened more than 210,300 people in at least 145 countries and over 9,000 people have died, more than half of them outside China, where the epidemic first began in the city of Wuhan.
"The world is paying a big price for what they (China) did and the world is paying a very big price for not letting them (information about coronavirus) come out," Trump said.
The president was responding to a question on a critical tweet by his National Security Council (NSC) against the Chinese government.
The NSC had tweeted that the Chinese Communist Party suppressed initial reports on the
coronavirus and punished doctors, causing Chinese and international experts to miss critical opportunities to prevent a global pandemic.
"Everybody knows that. We all know that. As far as believing what they're putting out now I hope it's true. Who knows but I hope it's true. I really do," Trump said.
"If people would have known about it, it could have been stopped in place. It could have been stopped right where it came from China, if we would have known about it, if they would have known about it. But now the whole world almost is inflicted with this horrible virus and it's too bad," he said.
He, however, refrained from commenting on whether there would be any repercussion against China.
According to various reports, Dr Li Wenliang, a 29-year-old whistle-blower who later died of COVID-19, was warned by local police when he first wrote about the virus on social media on December 31.
Meanwhile, the death toll soared in Europe as Italy announced another 427 fatalities on Thursday, taking its total to 3,405, according to a tally compiled by
AFP from official sources.
China has officially reported 3,245 deaths from the virus, which can cause respiratory failure, particularly in the elderly.
France reported 108 more deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number to 372.
-with inputs from agencies
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