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British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and French President Emmanuel Macron raised concern over the Chinese methods of handling the Covid-19 crisis and the reports of alleged cover up.

The French President questioned China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that things “happened that we don’t know about.”

Chines city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged, revises its death toll up by 1,290 to 3,869 – an increase of 50%. Chinese foreign ministry says statistics have been reviewed and denies any cover-up.

Foreign Secretary Raab told a news conference at No 10 that “hard questions” would have be asked about how the outbreak started “and how it couldn’t have been stopped earlier”.

He said there would have to be a “deep dive” into how the virus was able to spread from China and said it could not be “business as usual” after the crisis.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has also taken a hard line against China. On Wednesday, asked why the US accounted for such a high proportion of the global death toll, he accused other countries of lying about their mortality rates.

“Does anybody really believe the numbers of some of these countries?” he asked, naming China.

He said the US was looking into unverified reports that the coronavirus may have emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan rather than in a market in the city.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary and acting Prime Minister Dominic Raab (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/Xinhua/IANS)

Asked if China’s authoritarian response to bring the outbreak under control had exposed the weakness of Western democracies, the BBC quoted Macron as saying to The Financial Times newspaper that there was no comparison between open societies and those where truth was suppressed.

“Given these differences, the choices made and what China is today, which I respect, let’s not be so naive as to say it’s been much better at handling this,” he said.

“We don’t know. There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”

He said that abandoning freedoms to fight the pandemic would threaten Western democracies.

“We can’t accept that. You can’t abandon your fundamental DNA on the grounds that there is a health crisis.”

More people have died in the US and several European countries than in China where the virus emerged.

Concern Over China

Mr Macron told the Financial Times it was “naive” to suggest China had dealt better with the crisis, adding things “happened that we don’t know about”.

France has seen 141,000 cases of Covid-19 and nearly 18,000 deaths. China has recorded 4,632 deaths – including an extra 1,290 deaths announced on Friday in Wuhan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects the novel coronavirus pneumonia prevention and control work in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

President Macron’s interview came after a weekend of tension which saw the summoning of the Chinese ambassador to Paris by the French foreign ministry to express disapproval over an article on the Chinese embassy’s website that said Western countries had left the elderly to die in care homes, BBC reported.

The article – by an unnamed diplomat – was seen by France as a reference to the situation in its care homes, which make up a large number of deaths attributed to the disease caused by coronavirus, Covid-19.

China dismissed the row as a “misunderstanding”. Government spokesman Zhao Lijian said China had never made any negative comments about how France was coping with the epidemic “and has no intention of making any”.

Mr Macron was asked if China’s authoritarian response to bring the outbreak under control had exposed the weakness of Western democracies, and responded that there was no comparison between open societies and those where truth was suppressed.

“Given these differences, the choices made and what China is today, which I respect, let’s not be so naive as to say it’s been much better at handling this,” he said.

“We don’t know. There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.”

He said that abandoning freedoms to fight the pandemic would threaten Western democracies.

“We can’t accept that. You can’t abandon your fundamental DNA on the grounds that there is a health crisis.”

EU Strategy

The European Union (EU) has put forward a roadmap for member states to phase out containment measures imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The guideline was drawn up by European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, in cooperation with President of the European Council Charles Michel, in response to the request from member states.

“It is important to consider carefully the next steps in the fight against the coronavirus. Today the European Commission presented criteria to help Member States decide when and in what order confinement measures can be gradually lifted, in a coordinated way,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

According to the guideline, the member states should move cautiously as they return to normal life and base their actions on scientific advice.

“I want to make sure that this is not a signal that confinement measures can be lifted as of now, but it intends to provide a frame for Member States decisions,” she said at a press conference.

“The strength of Europe lies in its social and economic balance.”

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

First of all, the roadmap suggests that the government decide the timing of relaxing confinement based on following criteria: the epidemiological criteria showing that the spread of the disease has significantly decreased and stabilised for a sustained period, sufficient health system capacity and appropriate monitoring capacity.

Second, the EU asks its member states to notify each other and the European Commission before they lift measures.

The third key point is that phasing out confinement requires accompanying measures including reporting and contact tracing, expanding testing capacity, and developing safe and effective treatments and medicines.

Also Read – Merkel Defends WHO in G7 Meet

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