Washington: China continues to hide and obfuscate COVID-19 data from the world, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, asserting that he has seen a significant amount of evidence suggesting that a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan was "underperforming" and the virus may well have emanated from there.
By Friday, more than 78,000 Americans had died and 13 lakh tested positive for the coronavirus. Globally, more than 274,000 people have died and 39 lakh have tested positive for the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
"I have seen a significant amount of evidence that suggests that the lab was underperforming, that there were security risks at the lab and that the virus could well have emanated from there," Pompeo told Ben Shapiro in an interview on Friday.
"But I am happy to suspend the decision about that. What we need are answers. There are still people dying," he said.
The American economy and that of the rest of the world have come to a standstill.
"We have got an economy now that is really struggling and it is all a direct result of the Chinese Communist Party covering up, hiding information, having doctors who wanted to tell the story about where this began, how patient zero was formed and how it emanated from that person, and yet we cannot get those answers," Pompeo said.
"Even now, 120-plus days on from the Chinese Communist Party knowing about this virus, they continue to hide and obfuscate the data from the American people and from the world's best scientists," he said.
It is pretty astounding, Pompeo said, when asked if the Chinese government is attempting to stymie any sort of investigation into what happened in the country.
"Whether it was the Australians who simply said, 'Boy, we need an investigation,' the ambassador there - the Chinese ambassador to Australia - said, 'Well, we are going to threaten you economically.' We have seen them do the same thing to the EU, when they were about to put out a statement, began to put economic pressure on them," he said.
"This is the worst of Chinese adventurism. We have seen this. We have seen the Chinese Communist Party do this before, threaten small countries, use economic power to exert their influence," Pompeo said.
"It is not how nations that want to truly be transparent, truly be part of the international system -- it is not how they behave. I regret that they have done it because we still have an ongoing crisis. We still do not know where this virus began other than to say we know it came out of Wuhan," he said.
China has denied covering up the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and accused the US of attempting to divert public attention by insinuating that the virus originated from a virology laboratory in Wuhan.
"China was the first country to report the COVID-19 to the World Health Organisation (WHO), (and) that doesn't mean the virus originated from Wuhan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said last month, dismissing US Pompeo's charge that China was hiding the COVID-19 data.
"Epidemic may break out first anywhere in the world. But its origin is a matter of science and we should leave it to science and medical community," said Zhao, who earlier created a storm by alleging on March 12 that the US Army may have brought the virus to Wuhan, leading to a diplomatic protest by Washington.
(With agency inputs)