President Donald Trump says the U.S. is investigating how China has dealt with the coronavirus outbreak and would look at pursuing “substantial” damages from Beijing.
During a press conference at the White House Rose Garden on Monday, Trump again leveled accusations at China’s handling of the pandemic.
Trump and some members of his administration have suggested China should be punished for its response, amid claims of covering up the outbreak and a lack of transparency over the number of deaths and infections.
Trump revisited the theme on Monday, telling reporters there were “a lot of ways you can hold them accountable,” that the U.S. was conducting “serious investigations,” and that “we are not happy with China.”
“We are not happy with that whole situation because we believe they could have been stopped at the source, quickly and not have spread over the world,” he said, adding: “We think that should have happened.”
Trump was asked about what he thought of an article from April 15 in the German newspaper Bild, which called for China to pay Berlin $165 billion in compensation, a figure the publication estimated was the cost of the virus to the German economy, and whether his administration would “look at doing the same.”
Trump replied: “We could do something easier than that, we have ways of doing things a lot easier than that. Germany is looking at things and we’re looking at things. We are talking more money than Germany is talking about.
“We have not determined the final amount. It’s very substantial. If you look at the world—I mean, this is worldwide damage. This is damage to the U.S., but this is damage to the world,” he added.
Newsweek has contacted the Chinese embassy in Washington and the White House for further comment.
Headlined “What China owes us,” the Bild article accuses China of not being open with the rest of the world over what it knew about the virus. The piece also details how the German economy has lost tourism, film and business revenues.
The Chinese embassy in Berlin condemned the article and said that authorities in Beijing first informed the WHO about cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause on December 31, 2019.
It also said that from then, Beijing kept the WHO and the U.S. updated on the progress of the illness, which was identified on January 8, and that the Bild article “stirs up nationalism, prejudice, xenophobia and hostility to China.”
Meanwhile, Newsweek earlier reported that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has updated its assessment of the origin of the virus.
While scientists rejected the idea that it had been released deliberately, the report corroborated by two U.S. officials, showed that U.S. intelligence changed its assessment that the outbreak “probably occurred naturally” to include the possibility that the new coronavirus emerged “accidentally” due to “unsafe laboratory practices” in Wuhan.
The infographic below, provided by Statista, shows the countries worst hit by COVID-19 as of April 27.