China is cooperating on coronavirus, WHO expert says, disputing White House official’s claims

A World Health Organization official said Friday that the group had no evidence to support a claim by a White House economic adviser of lack of transparency by China over the coronavirus outbreak and called on countries to “avoid politicizing this issue right now.”

Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, was responding to comments by Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, who said the U.S. feels let down by China’s response to the virus.

“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,” Kudlow told reporters Thursday.

Ryan called the remarks “opinion” and noted that he expects U.S. experts to be part of the WHO team in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus. He added that there has long been “deep scientific collaboration” between the U.S., international organizations and China, including extensive publishing by China in international medical journals about the virus.

“From our perspective, we have a government that is cooperating with us,” Ryan said of China. 

“If there is any clear indication of why there might be some lack of transparency, we would be very glad to have that discussion,” he said.

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Kudlow’s remarks also seemed at odds with President Donald Trump who praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday for Beijing’s response to the outbreak.

Kudlow said that unanswered questions about the virus were increasing and there was no sign of promised cooperation.

Ryan, in his response, suggested that Kudlow’s remarks came amid a “very tense political environment because of the economic issues.”

He called on officials to “avoid politicizing this issue right now” and to “let our scientists get on with it … let them work together and we fill find answers.”

More than 64,000 infected

There have been 64,460 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide as of Friday, according to John Hopkins data. 

The number of confirmed cases in mainland China jumped by about 4,000 on Friday to 63,866, according to John Hopkins data. Most of the cases came from the central province of Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak in December. 

There have been 1,384 deaths, all but three have occurred in China.

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As the crisis spreads, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has removed two top Communist Party officials from Hubei province for “incompetent control of the epidemic,” according to the state-owned Xinhua news agency. Six others were given “serous warnings.”

The move reflects Xi’s efforts to deal with the crisis that has disrupted normal public life and left millions essentially locked down in major cities. 

No plans to cancel or move Tokyo Olympics 

Despite the coronavirus outbreak in neighboring China, there are no plans for moving or canceling the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games that are scheduled in open in just over five months.

John Coates, the head of an International Olympic Committee inspection team, and the Tokyo Olympic organizers, were bombarded with questions Friday in Tokyo regarding the impact of the virus on the games.

“Certainly the advice we’re received externally from the WHO is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the games or moving the games,” Coates said. 

Asked if there would there be any “organizational changes” in how the games are run, Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori, “No, at this stage, no. We are not thinking of any such possibility.”

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More than 1,700 Chinese medical workers infected by virus

More than 1,700 Chinese medical workers have been infected — and six have died — by the new coronavirus that has killed nearly 1,400 people, a senior Chinese official said Friday.

Six of the workers have died, Zeng Yixin, vice director of the National Health Commission, said at a news conference.

He said the commission is “highly concerned about this issue” and has issued guidelines for the prevention and control of infection within medical institutions.

Medical workers account for about 3.8% of confirmed cases as of several days ago, Zeng said.

WHO said on Friday the medical cases peaked in the third or fourth week of January  and has been falling rapidly in the last two weeks “This may reflect increased level of protection and training and awareness,” said Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of global infectious hazard preparedness for the WHO.

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CDC confirms 15th US case

A person under federal quarantine in Texas was confirmed as the nation’s 15th coronavirus case, the CDC said Thursday. The patient arrived in the U.S. on Feb. 7 on a State Department-chartered flight from Wuhan. The passengers remain quarantined at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. “The individual is currently isolated and receiving medical care” at a nearby hospital, the CDC said in a statement.  

Contributing: John Bacon.

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