KEY POINTS

  • U.S. intel report claims the Chinese government “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic
  • China reportedly hoarded medical supplies before informing WHO of the contagion
  • China's imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves rose sharply during the early weeks of the crisis

The Trump administration continues to enflame tensions with China over the COVID-19 pandemic's origins. This time, a United States intelligence report claims the communist Chinese government “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic in a blatant effort to hoard imported medical supplies needed to combat the disease while limiting its own exports of these items.

"China likely cut its exports of medical supplies prior to its January WHO (World Health Organization) notification that COVID-19 is a contagion," said a four-page intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dated May 1 and obtained by The Associated Press.

DHS also said China attempted to conceal this attempt by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data." It also said China delayed telling WHO the coronavirus “was a contagion” for most of January so it could import masses of medical supplies. As a consequence, China's imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves rose sharply.

DHS said these conclusions are based on the 95% probability China’s changes in import and export behavior aren't within historical limits. China informed WHO of the outbreak on Dec. 31, 2019. It told the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on January 3 about this and publicly identified the pathogen as a novel coronavirus on January 8. On January 20, China told the world SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), the virus that causes COVID-19, is transmissible from person-to-person.

These advance warnings, however, proved to be of no value to the United States as president Donald Trump downplayed the severity of the pandemic. China’s January 20 announcement gave Trump and his people nearly two months to prepare for the pandemic.

The first confirmed U.S. COVID-19 case was identified on January 20 in a man that had returned to Snohomish County, Washington on January 15 from Wuhan, China. The first report of a U.S. death occurred on February 29. An earlier death (on February 6) was confirmed in late April, and is believed to be the first instance of a community transmission.

As of May 3, the U.S. still has the most confirmed active cases and deaths in the world. The U.S. had 1,187,387 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up 26,613 from Saturday, as of 8:10 p.m. ET Sunday, according to data from Worldometer. It also reported 68,570 deaths, which was 1,126 larger than Saturday's.

Worldwide, there were 3,562,525 cases (up 81,153) and 248,103 deaths (up 3,440). The U.S. accounted for a third of all world deaths on Sunday.

Donald Trump's attacks on China for its handling of the virus outbreak have fanned fears of another trade war between the economic superpowers Donald Trump's attacks on China for its handling of the virus outbreak have fanned fears of another trade war between the economic superpowers Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON