July 15, 2020 / 4:09 PM / 24 days ago

Pompeo expects 'completely whitewashed' WHO China investigation

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he expected a World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus in China to be “completely whitewashed.”

Nearly 580,000 people globally have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and more than 13 million have been infected following an outbreak that started in Wuhan, China, last year.

The Geneva-based WHO said it was sending an team to China in early July to investigate how the outbreak started.

“This is a regime that failed to disclose the information they had about a virus that has now killed over 100,000 Americans … and now it is allowing the World Health Organization to go in to conduct what I am confident will be a completely, completely whitewashed investigation,” Pompeo told reporters.

The United States is the WHO’s most prominent critic, and has said it is leaving the U.N. agency.

President Donald Trump, who has been harshly criticized for his response to the outbreak in the United States, which has the world’s highest death toll at more than 136,000 people, has sought to blame China.

“I hope I am wrong. I hope it’s a thorough investigation that gets fully to the bottom, but I have watched the Chinese Communist Party’s behavior with respect to the virus that emanated from Wuhan and they have simply refused,” Pompeo said.

“They have destroyed samples. They have taken journalists and doctors who were prepared to talk about this and not permitted them to do what nations that want to play on a truly global scale and global stage ought to do: be transparent, and open, and communicate and cooperate,” he said.

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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