Mar 11, 2020 - World

Robert O'Brien: China's coronavirus cover-up "cost the world" two months

Robert O'Brien with Trump. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

National security adviser Robert O’Brien claimed Wednesday that an initial cover-up of the coronavirus in China “cost the world community two months” and exacerbated the global outbreak.

Why it matters: In the face of a global crisis, the world’s two most powerful countries are pointing fingers at one another.

What he’s saying: Asked about China’s initial response, as well as spurious claims from some Chinese officials and media that the outbreak may not have started in China, O’Brien emphasized that “this virus did not originate in the United States, it originated in Wuhan.”

  • “Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” O’Brien said, citing instances of doctors who were “silenced."
  • “It probably cost the world community two months to respond,” he continued, adding that if teams from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been invited in early on, “I think we could have dramatically curtailed what happened in China and what’s now happening across the world.”
  • Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, O’Brien echoed other administration officials in saying President Trump’s “courageous decision” in late January to block air travel from China “bought the United States six to eight weeks to prepare for the virus.”

The flipside: As China begins to get its coronavirus outbreak under control, authorities are going on the offensive to rewrite the narrative that the global epidemic is Beijing's fault, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.

  • "The [Chinese Communist Party] is masterful at rewriting history and we’re watching them do it in real time," Bill Bishop, author of the Sinocism newsletter, told Axios.

Worth noting: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others have been criticized for using the term “Wuhan virus,” with critics claiming it adds unnecessary stigma and is needlessly antagonistic toward China.

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