Dec 3, 2020 - World

Azar's UN remarks to take aim at China

DHHS Secretary Alex Azar speaks at the White House
Alex Azar during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing. Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is expected to give a speech at a special session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday that hails U.S. progress on coronavirus vaccines while criticizing — though not directly naming — China.

Why it matters: U.S. government officials are concerned that China will use the UN special session to spread disinformation about the origins of the virus and China's early missteps in handling the pandemic.

  • "What’s evolving now is an infodemic at China’s behest," said a senior U.S. government official. "The UN is going to be ground zero on Thursday and Friday."

What's happening: The UN General Assembly is convening a special session addressing the coronavirus on Dec. 3 and 4 at the UN headquarters in New York. Representatives from numerous governments, including Azar, will give brief remarks during the sessions.

What Azar will say, according to a copy of his planned remarks obtained by Axios:

On vaccines: "The U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed has supported six different vaccine candidates, three of which have now reported promising data less than a year after the virus was made known globally. This is a stunning, unprecedented scientific achievement that will bring benefits to the entire world."

On China: "The key issue is not where the virus first appeared—it is whether information about the virus was shared in a timely and transparent way. Sadly, the necessary information sharing did not happen, and this dereliction of duty has been absolutely devastating for the entire globe."

  • "Sadly, some countries have also attempted to take advantage of the pandemic to pursue economic, diplomatic, or security gains with hard-hit countries."

The bottom line: The U.S. now has a real accomplishment to tout in its fight against the coronavirus. But U.S. officials remain concerned about China's ongoing refusal to own up to its early mishandling of the outbreak.

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