- As Europe approaches 100,000 deaths
- Trump wants China to take responsibility
- Thousands have taken up class actions against China
- But Beijing has repeatedly denied suppressing information
- Conservative law firms and think tanks in Western countries are demanding financial compensation
There should be consequences if Beijing was ‘knowingly responsible’ for pandemic - Trump
Donald Trump in a fresh burst of anger at the overwhelming death toll in Europe has warned that China should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic, as deaths in Europe from Covid-19 approached 100,000.
“It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering because of it,” Trump said in his daily White House briefing, as US cases topped 730,000 and fatalities in the country approached 39,000.
“If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, I mean, then sure there should be consequences,” Trump said. He did not elaborate on what form that might take.
He said the Chinese were “embarrassed” and the question now was whether what happened with the coronavirus was “a mistake that got out of control, or was it done deliberately?”
“There’s a big difference between those two,” he said.
On Sunday China reported just 16 new confirmed coronavirus cases, its lowest number since 17 March and down from 27 a day earlier. No new deaths were reported.
During the White House briefing, Trump interrupted his coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx, who was showing a comparison of deaths per 100,000 people in a range of countries, to say he didn’t believe China and Iran’s stated fatalities.
Why is Trump mad at China?
“Does anybody really believe these figures?” he asked.
Birx, who has steered clear of political aspects of Trump’s contentious briefings, also questioned China’s data, including that the country’s death rate per 100,000 people was far below major European countries and the US. She called China’s numbers “unrealistic” and said it had a “moral obligation” to provide credible information.
What is China been sued for?
Meanwhile, Thousands of Americans have reportedly signed onto a class action lawsuit in the US state of Florida which seeks compensation from the Chinese Government for COVID-19 damages, as Western politicians increasingly call for accountability.
According to a statement from the Miami-based Berman Law Group, the lawsuit "seeks billions of dollars in compensatory damages for those who have suffered personal injuries, wrongful deaths, property damage and other damages due to China's failure to contain the COVID-19 virus, despite their ability to have stopped the spread of the virus in its early stages".
The firm said it "looks forward to fighting for the rights of people and businesses across Florida and the rest of the country, who are now becoming sick or caring for loved ones, dealing with financial calamity, and navigating this new world of panic and social distancing and isolation".
British think tank, Bild call for compensation
A report released earlier this month by the Henry Jackson Society, a conservative British think tank, argued that the G7 nations could sue China for 3.2 trillion pounds ($6.3 trillion).
It claimed that Australia could file for more than $58 billion in damages.
The former boss of Britain's intelligence agency MI6, John Sawers, also said China's Government should be held responsible for the pandemic, given its early efforts to cover up the crisis.
"There is deep anger in America at what they see as having been inflicted on us all by China and China is evading a good deal of responsibility for the origin of the virus, for failing to deal with it initially," Mr. Sawers told the BBC.
"Intelligence is about acquiring information which has been concealed from you by other states and other actors, there was a brief period in December and January when the Chinese were indeed concealing this from the West."