Donald Trump has renewed his attacks on China, saying his administration was conducting “serious investigations” into Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and suggesting he would seek damages for the US.
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The US president had stopped giving press briefings after his advisers reportedly warned him that his marathon news conferences, including his widely-ridiculed comments about disinfectant as a possible treatment for Covid-19 – were hurting his re-election campaign.
The pause only lasted the weekend however. On Monday morning the White House announced that the day’s briefing was cancelled, only to reverse the decision hours later.
At the briefing Trump launched another forthright attack on China, saying there were “a lot of ways you can hold them accountable” for the pandemic.
“We’re doing very serious investigations … We are not happy with China,” the president said. “We believe it could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped quickly and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world.”
Trump responded to questions about a German newspaper editorial calling for China to pay Germany $165bn, suggesting he would also seek damages.
“Germany is looking at things, we are looking at things,” he said. “We are talking about a lot more money than Germany’s talking about.”
“We haven’t determined the final amount yet,” Trump said. “It’s very substantial.”
The president refused to take responsibility for people who acted upon his unsafe suggestion last week that injecting disinfectant could help patients with Covid-19.
Earlier in the day the White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, accused Beijing of sending low-quality and even counterfeit coronavirus antibody testing kits to the United States and of “profiteering” from the pandemic and selling “fake tests and counterfeit tests”.
Slide 1 of 50: Medical personnel attend to migrant workers at a dormitory amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore, April 29, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su Full screen 1/50 SLIDES © Edgar Su/Reuters Medical personnel attend to migrant workers at a dormitory amid the coronavirus outbreak in Singapore, on April 29.
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After a series of controversial shipments, China’s government introduced strict rules last month which required all medical equipment and testing kits to be approved by the national medical products administration and registered before they were exported. However, after some suppliers reportedly complained it was too difficult to get the domestic license required, the rules were scaled back on the weekend, with exports now only needing to meet the importing country’s standard.
US criticism of China has intensified over the past week. Over the weekend Politico published details of a 57-page Republican party attack memo, which advised candidate to aggressively target Beijing in their public remarks on the pandemic.
China has reacted strongly, denying any coverup over the virus. An editorial in the state-backed Global Times on Monday said “China’s achievement in the fight against Covid-19 is way better than that of the US”.
“It is the urgent political need of the Republican-led government to pass the buck to China for its own failure to contain the outbreak, so as to win the upcoming election,” the editorial said.
“This is a life-and-death matter, so it would spare no effort to smear China and mobilise all possible public opinion forces to do so to cover its selfishness.”
It said the US had a few followers “like Australia”, but these countries had barely any influence over China. On Tuesday the spokeswoman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, Hua Chunying, called for the US to “stop playing the political game”.
Several countries on Tuesday began to ease lockdown restrictions, including New Zealand and Australia, which have both had significant success in controlling the virus. New Zealand moved down to level 3 restrictions on midnight on Monday, allowing some businesses to reopen.
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, said it would allow up to two adults to visit any house from Friday. Australia recorded just 12 new cases of the virus nationally in the 24 hours to 6am on Tuesday and a total of 84 deaths.
Elsewhere, other developments included:
- More than 3,041,700 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to the John Hopkins Tracker, and at least 211,167 have died.
- Argentina’s number of reported cases surpassed 4,000 on Monday, with 111 new cases bringing the total to 4,003 infected persons and 197 deaths so far.
- New Zealand has ended its strictest lockdown phase and entered Level 3, with 400,000 Kiwis returning to work, restaurants and cafes reopening for takeaway, and fishing, surfing and swimming now permitted.
- China has reported six new coronavirus cases (three domestic and three from overseas) and no deaths, according to the country’s National Health Commission.
- More than 2,200 Indonesians have died from Covid-19, but were not recorded, according to an investigation from Reuters. The official death toll from the virus in the country is 765.
- The director general of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said he is concerned about people missing vaccines for diseases such as polio and measles because of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Mexico’s president declared the country had “tamed” its coronavirus outbreak, despite widespread suspicions that Covid-19 cases are being undercounted.
- WhatsApp claims to have cut viral messages by 70% after introducing a limit on the number of people to whom users could forward messages.
- Afghanistan recorded its biggest one-day rise in cases, triggered by a continued surge of transmission in Kandahar.
- Sydney’s Bondi Beach has reopened again, after it was shut for being too crowded.