China accused the United States on Monday of spreading “panic” in its response to the deadly coronavirus, lamenting it has taken actions that “create and spread fear” instead of offering significant assistance.
The Chinese foreign ministry made the accusations during a regular briefing session that confirmed the Chinese death toll has risen to 362 while total infections reached over 17,000 globally, surpassing the SARS epidemic of two decades ago.
The United States was the first nation to suggest partial withdrawal of its embassy staff, followed by a ban on Chinese travellers, a point spokeswoman Hua Chunying used to amplify China’s concerns the U.S. has not been supportive enough.
“All it has done could only create and spread fear, which is a bad example,” Hua told the online news briefing, adding China wanted judgements and responses that were reasonable, calm and based on science.
The United States began evacuating U.S. citizens from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have first emerged late last year, on Jan. 28.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Jan. 30 called the accelerating outbreak a global emergency. On the same day, the U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for China, a retrograde step according to Hua.
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“It is precisely developed countries like the United States with strong epidemic prevention capabilities and facilities that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” she said.
Washington on Friday declared a public health emergency and temporarily banned the entry of foreign nationals who have travelled to China over the past two weeks.
Any United States citizen who has traveled specifically in the Hubei province of China in the last 14 days faces a mandatory quarantine of up to two weeks. United States citizens who have been to China in the last 14 days will undergo health screening and then will be asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“The risk of infection for Americans remains low and with these and our previous actions we are working to keep the risks low,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
There have been eight confirmed U.S. cases of the new deadly virus, which originated in a live seafood market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province.
The epidemic has since spread to more than 24 countries, despite many governments around the world imposing unprecedented travel bans on people coming from China.
In China there are now 17,205 cases on the mainland alone. In addition, Hong Kong has 15 cases and Macao has seven. Most of the 361 deaths have been in central Hubei province, where illnesses from the new type of coronavirus were first detected in December.
AFP contributed to this story