US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pulled no punches against the governments of China and Iran, accusing the two countries of withholding the truth with respect to the scope of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Speaking at a press conference in Washington DC on Tuesday (Feb. 25), Pompeo blasted the respective responses to the deadly epidemic in China and Iran and claimed both nations were covering up the severity of the spread.
China’s criticism from the US’ third most powerful man was particularly scathing and circled around the recent removal of three Wall Street Journal reporters.
“Expelling our journalists exposes once again the government’s issue that led to SARS and now the coronavirus, namely censorship. It can have deadly consequences,” Pompeo said of China.
“Had China permitted its own and foreign journalists and medical personnel to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge,” he told reporters at a State Department news conference.
The US, according to Pompeo, is “deeply concerned” that the Iranian government “may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak.”
“All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” Pompeo said.
China first reported the novel coronavirus on December 31, 2019, and has since accounted for the lion’s share of deaths and infection.
As of Tuesday, the Asian country has declared 2,663 deaths among 77,658 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei – the epicentre of the outbreak.
Iran, with its outbreak beginning in the holy city of Qom, has reported 95 cases and 15 deaths since confirming the first case last Wednesday.