Coronavirus: senior US official accuses China of lack of transparency

A senior White House official has called on Beijing to be more transparent over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak as Chinese authorities expanded “wartime” measures to limit its spread.

Casualties from coronavirus reached nearly 1,400, with more than 5,000 new cases reported on Friday, dampening optimism that the virus will soon be contained.

At a meeting of senior leaders in Beijing leading the government’s response to the crisis, officials called for other areas to “adopt quarantine and rescue measures equal to that of Wuhan”, which has been under lockdown for more than two weeks, including centralising and quarantining patients.

The meeting, held on Thursday and chaired by premier Li Keqiang called on Wuhan to “speed up” classifying and quarantining residents suspected or confirmed of contracting the virus.

It came as a top White House official called on Beijing to be more open.

“We are a little disappointed that we haven’t been invited in and we’re a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese,” Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, told reporters.

Kudlow said President Xi Jinping had assured President Donald Trump that Beijing would accept US help, but “they won’t let us”.

“I don’t know what their motives are. I do know that apparently more and more people are suffering over there,” he said. “Is the Politburo really being honest with us?” he asked, referring to communist China’s top leadership body.

In Huanggang, one of the worst-hit areas outside of Wuhan with more than 2,000 cases and at least 59 deaths, authorities issued an emergency measures for 14 days, “fully sealing” all residential areas and banning vehicles, except for those for emergency, medical or official purposes.

Checkpoints would be set up and public security deployed to enforce the measures. Local district committee are to organise residents’ needed supplies. “All residents must not enter or leave their communities without authorisation,” the notice said.

In Dawu county in central Hubei, home to more than 600,000 people, officials also issued an emergency notice on Thursday afternoon that residential areas and buildings would be sealed and vehicles banned. Those who violate the rules “will be detained, according to wartime regulations”. “In extraordinary times, extraordinary actions are needed,” the notice said.

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