The US is still trying to get an “actual sample” of the novel coronavirus from China as several questions related to the infection remain unanswered, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.
The US has been the worst affected country by the deadly coronavirus, which broke out in China’s Wuhan city last year. As of Thursday, the US witnessed at least 842,376 coronavirus cases, including over 49,800 deaths, Johns Hopkins University has said.
“Frankly we are still trying to get an actual sample of the virus (from China). They have given us the breakdown of it,” Pompeo said during the Larry O’Connor show on Thursday.
Pompeo’s comments came as last week President Donald Trump said the US is looking into reports that the novel coronavirus, “escaped” from a virology laboratory in Wuhan city, the epicentre of the virus outbreak in China.
Pompeo said there still were many questions about the coronavirus that remain unanswered.
“There are still many unanswered questions about how this came to be. This issue of transparency is important not only as a historical matter to understand what happened back in November and December and January, but it’s important even today,” he said.
“As you know, this is still impacting lots of lives here in the United States and, frankly, around the world,” Pompeo added.
China last week added 1,290 more fatalities in Wuhan to its COVID-19 national death toll of 4,632.
Pompeo also said the US needs every country to be transparent, to share their data, to share all of this information so the world’s best epidemiologists and scientists and laboratory experts can begin to develop therapeutics and a vaccine that ultimately gets us to a place where people are less at risk.
“The President is very focused on getting this economy back going, and it is important that we have transparency about the virus to enable us to do that,” he said.
Responding to a question, Pompeo said the first cases of this were known by the Chinese government maybe as early as November, but certainly by mid-December.
He said the Chinese government was slow to identify this for anyone in the world, including the World Health Organisation.
“Once the United States came to understand what was potentially taking place there, we immediately turned both to the World Health Organisation and to the Chinese Government directly, not just through the State Department but through our health and technical experts as well, and asked for access, for understanding, for transparency, Pompeo said.