The Director of National Intelligence last week debunked claims that China intentionally released COVID-19 as a bioweapon, but that doesn’t mean that China’s actions in the opening weeks of the pandemic were aboveboard. A new assessment by the Department of Homeland Security says that China concealed the extent of the outbreak in order to get a head start on hoarding medical supplies.
The Associated Press reports that Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic, citing a four-page intelligence report dated May 1 that was obtained by the outlet. The report was not classified but was marked “for official use only.”
The report indicates that China increased imports of medical supplies and decreased exports as the Coronavirus epidemic grew. These actions were covered up by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data.” China reportedly sharply increased imports of masks, gloves, and gowns.
The Chinese informed WHO of the outbreak on December 31 and publicly identified the virus as a novel Coronavirus on January 8, but the report found that they did not communicate that the disease “was a contagion” for much of January. The delay allowed China to continue importing large quantities of medical supplies before other countries were aware of the extent of the danger.
The AP notes that there is no public evidence that there was “an intentional plot to buy up the world’s medical supplies” and postulates that “many of the Chinese government’s missteps appear to have been due to bureaucratic hurdles, tight controls on information and officials hesitant to report bad news.” However, the intelligence report found a 95 percent probability that China’s trade moves were not in the normal range.
Separately, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that there was a “significant amount of evidence” that the virus was related to the Chinese medical lab in Wuhan.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Pompeo said, ““These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab. And so, while the intelligence community continues to do its work, they should continue to do that, and verify so that we are certain, I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
Pompeo doubled down on the claim in a tweet Sunday afternoon without offering evidence.
While the revelations tarnish China’s reputation in the eyes of the world, they also undercut claims of some in the United States who say that fears of the virus are overblown. The news of China’s manipulation of world trade to hoard medical supplies is an indication of just how dangerous the Coronavirus pandemic is.
New reporting by the Washington Post underscores the danger as well. As reports come in from the first weeks of the American outbreak, statistics show that excess deaths surged above 37,000 in March and early April. These deaths could not be firmly classified as Coronavirus deaths to lack of available testing, but indicate that official death counts, which require a positive test, are likely far too low.
Earlier models had predicted a death toll of 60,000 people by August after shelter-in-place orders were implemented across much of the country. The US blew past that figure last week, however. The current death toll stands at 68,678 with many states and cities still facing rising curves.
Our first priority should be containing the Coronavirus pandemic and saving lives, but the world should absolutely hold China accountable for its actions. One good way to do so is to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership, canceled by President Trump in one of his first actions as president. The TPP would help to isolate China and give Pacific Rim nations a better alternative to dealing with an untrustworthy communist regime.
Originally published on The Resurgent
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