US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged that China may have known of the new coronavirus as early as November, renewing accusations that Beijing has not been transparent.
United States President Donald Trump’s administration has harshly criticised both China and the WHO, blaming them for not stopping the illness that has killed more than 1,80,000 people worldwide.
“You’ll recall that the first cases of this were known by the Chinese government maybe as early as November, but certainly by mid-December. They were slow to identify this for anyone in the world, including the World Health Organisation,” Pompeo said in an interview on Thursday, with conservative radio host Larry O’Connor.
Pompeo said this is still impacting lots of lives in the United States and around the world.
It is believed that China at first closely guarded information of the virus and detained whistleblowers.
The first official acknowledgement of what became a global pandemic came on December 31 when authorities in Wuhan reported mysterious cases of pneumonia.
The UN body first spoke of an event in Wuhan on January 4 via Twitter and provided “detailed information” the following day to all member countries.
Pompeo has also previously not ruled out that the virus originated in a virology laboratory in Wuhan and has demanded international access to it.
Critics, however, often say that Trump is seeking to deflect from his own handling of the coronavirus, which he claimed to have “totally under control” in January but has since killed nearly 50,000 people in the United States — more than any other country.
China, on its part, has dismissed the theory. Its scientists say that the virus probably was transmitted to humans at a meat market in Wuhan that butchered exotic animals.