Prime Minister Justin Trudeau evaded questions about whether China had concealed the extent of the COVID-19 epidemic after the country revised the death toll by 50 percent in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak first emerged.
The prime minister was pressed by reporters Friday about holding the Communist Party of China accountable amid criticism it hadn’t been fully transparent in the early stages of the viral outbreak and provided incomplete data to the World Health Organization.
Trudeau said his job right now is to make sure Canadians get the best “support” and “protection” as COVID-19 has devastated Canada’s economy and sickened over 30,000.
“That means ensuring that cooperation and collaboration on the international stage is done properly,” Trudeau said. “That means focusing right now on today and tomorrow on how we are going to keep Canadians safe.”
“There will be plenty of time to point fingers, to ask questions, to draw conclusion and ensure there are consequences for what countries may have done during this pandemic,” he said.
Trudeau said one priority is ensuring Canadian frontline health care workers get the protective equipment they need to battle the spread of the virus.
“There will be many questions to ask, once we are through this on how various countries behaved and what sort of principles we need to learn from and conclusions we need to draw as we move forward,” he said.
China has faced criticism from world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, over its handling of the outbreak.
Trump has been China’s most vocal critic, and earlier this week announced his administration was temporarily halting funding to the WHO for taking China’s claims about the coronavirus “at face value,” and failing to share information about the pandemic as it spread.
Health experts around the world condemned Trump’s decision and G7 leaders backed the WHO in a virtual summit this week.
On Friday, China announced the addition of 1,290 victims had died from COVID-19 in Wuhan bringing the death toll to 3,869 in city where the illness began.
State media attributed the initial undercount to how overwhelmed the health system was coping with thousands of sick patients, the Associated Press reported.
But questions have been ongoing about the accuracy of the case reporting coming out of China amid accusations Chinese officials downplayed the impact of the outbreak and wasted opportunities to reduce the spread of the virus.
U.S. intelligence agencies, including the C.I.A., have been warning the White House since early February that China has understated its coronavirus infections and that it’s data could not be relied upon to create modelling for the virus.
Meanwhile, critics in Canada, including former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler and a number of Conservative MPs in Canada, have called for the Trudeau government to hold China to account for its actions.
Cotler has called what happened China’s “Chernobyl moment,” comparing it to how officials in the former Soviet Union covered up the 1986 nuclear accident in Ukraine. Cotler was one of more than 100 people to sign an open letter condemning President Xi Jinping’s Communist Party of China.
“The global pandemic forces us all to confront an inconvenient truth: by politicizing all aspects of life including people’s health, continued autocratic one-party rule in the People’s Republic of China has endangered everyone,” the letter said. “Rather than trusting the CCP’s intentions and accepting establishment academics’ uncritical approval of the party-state’s policies, we should pay greater attention to the voices of what can be termed ‘unofficial’ China.”
China has faced criticism in the past about not being fully transparent amid viral outbreaks.
During the 2003 SARS epidemic, China was accused of concealing information about the number of illnesses and putting economic considerations before the lives of citizens.
In some cases, patients were hidden in hotels and obscure hospital wings and even driven around in ambulances to avoid detection by World Health Organization experts.
With files from the Associated PressView link »