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Coronavirus update: virus fears putting warmer US-China relations at risk

By Hugh Wilson

China accuses US of ‘spreading fear’ as tensions rise and stocks fall

The Chinese government has accused the US of spreading fear over the coronavirus outbreak rather than offering assistance, as frost returned to a relationship that had been thawing since the signing of a Phase One trade deal in January.

The comments came as Chinese markets plunged on the first day of trading after the extended break for Lunar New Year, wiping $400bn (£306bn, €361bn) off the value of stocks.

According to Reuters, China sees the US as a ringleader in a growing movement to isolate the country through the imposition of travel bans, against World Health Organisation (WHO) advice.

It quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as saying: “All it (the US) has done could only create and spread fear, which is a bad example.”

President Trump signed an order last week stopping foreign nationals who had recently travelled to China from entering the US. Other countries - including Australia, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore and New Zealand - have imposed similar restrictions.

On Monday, 3 February, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said that “the range of unknowns” in the way the virus is transmitted justified the temporary travel ban.

The WHO has recognised the coronavirus outbreak as a global health emergency, but advised against imposing travel bans.

“There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent.”

Latest figures show that there are 17,459 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 362 people have died from the illness.

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