China gives Australia the cold shoulder while denying coronavirus cover-up

China has defended it's response to the coronavirus pandemic after an investigation claimed their government held back information which could've helped in the creation of a vaccine.

Ma Xiaowei

Chinas Director of National Health Commission Ma Xiaowei Source: AFP

Senior Chinese officials have released a lengthy report defending the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic and saying that China had provided information in a timely and transparent manner. 

China "wasted no time" in sharing information such as the genome sequence for the new virus with the World Health Organisation as well as relevant countries and regional organisations, according to the report.

An Associated Press investigation found that government labs sat on releasing the genetic map of the virus for more than a week in January, delaying its identification in a third country and the sharing of information needed to develop tests, drugs and a vaccine.

China Publishes 'Fighting COVID-19: China in Action' White Paper
Chinese Government officials release an internal report into the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic Source: SBS / , China News Service

National Health Commission Chairman Ma Xiaowei did not address the specific findings in the AP report, but said it "seriously goes against the facts".

He added that there were many unknowns in the early stage of the outbreak and that it took time to gather evidence and figure out the characteristics of the new virus.

"The Chinese government did not delay or cover up anything," he said.

"Instead, we have immediately reported virus data and relevant information about the epidemic to the international community and made an important contribution to the prevention and control of the epidemic around the world."

He ticked off a series of government actions from a detailed timeline in the government report.

The timeline says that China began updating the WHO on a regular basis on 3 January and that the head of China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention briefed the head of the US CDC on 4 January.

US officials have been critical of China's early response, adding to a deterioration of US-China relations over trade and technology and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Asked how China would repair its relations with the rest of the world, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said that cooperation over the pandemic had improved ties with most other countries.

"Certain countries go against the tide of history. To disguise their inadequate response to COVID-19, they insanely smeared and slandered China ... In response to such scapegoating practice, China will certainly fight back," he said, without naming the US.

Wuhan, where the first cases of the virus were detected late last year, was the hardest-hit part of China in the outbreak.

Dispute drags on

Meanwhile, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is still waiting to speak to his Chinese counterpart about a beef and barley dispute, more than four weeks after requesting a meeting.

"Unfortunately our requests for a discussion have so far been met negatively," Senator Birmingham told ABC radio on Monday.

"That's disappointing, as I've emphasised time and time again."

Simon Birmingham
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham Source: Getty

China slapped huge tariffs on Australian barley and banned beef imports from four abattoirs after the Morrison government led the charge for an independent global inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

"Australia is open to having difficult discussions on matters upon which we may disagree with other countries but we will do so respectfully, thoughtfully, calmly," Senator Birmingham said.  

"It's unfortunate when other nations won't respond or reciprocate in kind."

3 min read
Published 8 June 2020 at 5:07pm
Source: AFP,SBS