President Donald Trump has already expended all of his political capital with China over his trade war and he is unwilling to pressure the country now that the coronavirus is getting closer and closer to pandemic status.
“U.S. health officials have been signaling for nearly two weeks now that a coronavirus pandemic may be on the horizon,” wrote infectious diseases reporter Helen Branswell for STAT. “While stressing that the virus presents only a ‘low risk’ to Americans right now, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, acknowledged Tuesday that that might not remain the case for long.”
The Washington Post revealed Monday that Trump’s advisers are growing increasingly concerned that Trump’s passive approach to Chinese President Xi Jinping over the outbreak is making things worse.
“I had a long talk with President Xi — for the people in this room — two nights ago, and he feels very confident. He feels very confident. And he feels that, again, as I mentioned, by April or during the month of April, the heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus,” Trump told U.S. governors last week. “So that would be a good thing. But we’re in great shape in our country.”
But the Post cited several senior White House and administration officials who say that Trump has done nothing but “heralded Xi’s leadership and ‘discipline’ in responding to the outbreak.”
“Trump has repeatedly told advisers that pushing for a harder line against China could backfire because Xi controls the government ‘totally’ and will not work with the United States if it says anything negative about the country, said one of these senior administration officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private talks,” reported the Post.
Global health experts have been concerned that China isn’t being truthful about the impact of the outbreak. Since the virus began to spread, China’s Hubei province announced 242 new deaths. By Feb. 15, they announced twice as many deaths and over 14,000 infections. It has prompted many health experts in the U.S. and abroad to demand a greater transparency from the Chinese government, something they’re not exactly known for.
At the same time, news broke that one of the doctors who tried to sound the alarm back in December died after contracting the disease.
Dr. Li Wenliang, who worked as an ophthalmologist, was “unfortunately infected during the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection,” said the Wuhan Central Hospital.
Li was scolded by local authorities for allegedly “spreading rumors” about the coronavirus. It turns out he was right — and the Chinese government ignored him.