Donald Trump: US unloads on China as Covid-19 puts 22 million Americans out of work | World News
Anger at Beijing is boiling over as the US death toll from the pandemic neared 30,000 and 5.2 million workers filed unemployment benefit claims during the past week, in addition to 16.8 million applications filed since the virus began to spread four weeks ago.
At his daily White House briefing on Wednesday, President Trump implicitly acknowledged reports that the virus was lab-made in Wuhan and transmitted by an intern who got infected, saying “more and more, we’re hearing the story” and “we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.”
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Trump also declined to answer whether he had raised the State Department’s concerns about lax safety protocols at the Wuhan virology lab expressed before the alleged leak with China’s President Xi, saying, “I just don’t want to discuss it. It’s inappropriate right now.”
According to accounts in the pro-Trump right-wing media, which posed the questions at the briefing, Covid-19 originated in the Wuhan virology lab, already on the US radar for inadequate safety protocols, “not as a bioweapon but as part of China’s attempt to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States.” An intern who accidentally got infected gave it to her boyfriend when she met him at the now notorious Huanan wet market — which apparently sells a lot of exotic animals but not bats—and it spread from there. China also sat on reports of the leak for a week so as to not alarm people.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo too appeared to throw his weight behind the possibility, telling Fox News, “What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There is still lots to learn. You should know that the United States government is working diligently to figure it out.”
Separately, the State Department also piled on to Beijing for conducting small low-yield nuclear tests in secret at its Lop Nor site, possibly violating an international agreement banning such tests. A new State Department report on arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament compliance also went on to cite concerns about China’s possible violation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) by engaging “in biological activities with potential dual-use application.”
Wednesday’s heat on China came after Trump accused the WHO of cozying with Beijing and virtually helping it cover up the virus spill, while announcing suspension of funding for the organization. China on its part has rejected the idea of a lab-made or lab-leaked virus. “The head of the WHO has repeatedly stated that there hasn’t been any evidence pointing to the virus being lab-created. Many renowned medical experts around the world have also described theories such as ‘lab leaks’ as lacking any scientific proof,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.
Washington’s fury at Beijing is fueled in part by relentless bad news on the economic front, with all the gains made in Trump’s three and half years and more evaporating in just four weeks of mayhem. The 22 million unemployment claims filed since the virus outbreak mid-March constitutes nearly 13.5 per cent of the 160 million American work force.
The numbers are expected to go even higher because many states are still clearing backlogs of jobless claims caused by jammed phone lines and inaccessible websites. By some accounts, unemployment rate could reach 20 per cent, the highest rate since the Great Depression (it was got up to near 10 per cent during he 2008 recession) if jobs losses go beyond service industries such as hotels, bars, restaurants and airlines, to other sectors linked to them. Up to 50 million jobs – about 30 per cent of all jobs in the U.S – are though to be vulnerable.
The crisis, which could destroy Trump’s re-election chances if it is not overcome, appears to be propelling the President to re-open the country’s economy on May 1, even though many experts, governors, and even corporate CEOs are cautioning against rushing into a decision. But Trump will have none of it, and he is expected to announce a partial re-opening at least in a conference call with governors on Thursday evening.