Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China continues to block US scientists from entering the country to study the coronavirus as Hong Kong researchers estimated that the number of cases could be four times higher than Beijing previously reported.
“Even today, the Chinese government hasn’t permitted American scientists to go into China, to go into not only the Wuhan lab or wherever it needs to go to learn about this virus, to learn about its origins,” Pompeo told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” in an interview on Wednesday.
“Look, we know it began at one [lab], but we need to figure this out. There’s an ongoing pandemic. We still don’t have the transparency and openness we need in China.”
Pompeo also maintained his criticism of the World Health Organization for its failure to ensure the Chinese Communist Party reported accurate numbers so that the world could have taken the necessary precautions when the pandemic was in its early stages.
“It is the World Health Organization’s responsibility to achieve that transparency. They’re not doing it. They need to be held accountable,” he said. “And what’s been great is to see other countries around the world to begin to recognize the WHO failures as well.”
President Trump last week announced that he would freeze payments to the United Nations’ agency until a review could examine the WHO’s response to China and how it communicated the pandemic to the world.
There are more than 2.6 million coronavirus cases globally, and The Chinese Communist Party has reported just over 83,000, with a total population of 1.5 billion people.
Pompeo signaled that the WHO’s director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should step down.
“No, I think that’s right,” Pompeo told Ingraham. “Or even more than that. It may be the case that the United States can never return to underwriting, having U.S. taxpayer dollars go to the WHO. We may need to have even bolder change than that.”
Meanwhile, a report in the medical journal Lancet from Hong Kong researchers said the number of COVID-19 cases in China could have surpassed 232,000 in the early days of its spread.
The Chinese ruling Communist Party reported more than 55,000 cases as of Feb. 20, but the researchers from Hong Kong University estimated the number of infected could have been four times higher because Beijing health officials applied different versions of what constituted a case.
“From Jan 15 to March 3, 2020, seven versions of the case definition for COVID-19 were issued by the National Health Commission in China. We estimated that when the case definitions were changed, the proportion of infections being detected as cases increased,” the report in Lancet read.
“If the fifth version of the case definition had been applied throughout the outbreak with sufficient testing capacity, we estimated that by 20 February 2020, there would have been 232,000 … confirmed cases in China, as opposed to the 55,508 confirmed cases, reported,” the report said.
The Hong Kong researchers used data from the WHO’s mission in Wuhan for their estimates.