February 3, 2020 / 7:34 AM / 4 months ago

China accuses U.S. of scaremongering over coronavirus

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing on Monday accused the United States of spreading fear over a coronavirus outbreak by pulling nationals out and restricting travel instead of offering significant aid.

FILE PHOTO: Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China's Foreign Ministry, answers a question at a regular news conference, in Beijing, China, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The United States was the first nation to begin evacuations, issued a travel warning against going to China, and from Sunday barred entry to foreigners recently in China.

Washington has “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic”, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) had advised against trade and travel curbs.

“It is precisely developed countries like the United States with strong epidemic prevention capabilities and facilities that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” she added, saying countries should make reasonable, calm and science-based judgements.

In China, 361 people have died with more than 17,000 infected from the virus, which originated in the central city of Wuhan. At least another 171 cases have been reported in more than two dozen other countries and regions, from the United States to Japan.

Conducting her daily news briefing via the WeChat app rather than in person, Hua also chided the United States for lack of help. “So far, the U.S. government has yet to provide any substantial assistance to China,” she said.

That contrasted with President Donald Trump’s weekend comments that U.S. officials had offered “tremendous help.”

However, his national security adviser Robert O’Brien told an interviewer China had not yet accepted U.S. offers of aid.

Tensions over the coronavirus come after the two world’s largest economies have only just started to patch up relations from an 18-month trade war.

Trump said over the weekend the United States had “shut down” the coronavirus threat. “We can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem,” he told broadcaster Fox.

Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam have also announced restrictions on travel from China, while numerous nations have been evacuating citizens.

Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Cawthorne

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