‘Overreaction’: China slams US over virus
A top US health official has defended Washington's response to the coronavirus after China accused the Trump administration of overreacting to the outbreak.
US authorities declared a public health emergency last week and temporarily banned foreign nationals who had travelled to mainland China in the last two weeks.
Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Centre for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the measures were aimed at "slowing the entry of the virus into the United States".
"These actions are science based and they are protecting the health and safety of all Americans," she said. "Action now has the biggest potential to slow things down.
"We expect to see more cases of person-to-person spread among close contacts. The goal here is to slow entry of this virus into the United States."
US officials confirmed the number of coronavirus cases there have reached 11, describing the deadly global crisis as "explosive" and "unprecedented".
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying criticised Washington's response overnight.
"Most countries appreciate and support China's efforts to fight against the novel coronavirus, and we understand and respect them when they adopt or enhance quarantine measures at border entry," she said.
She said the US "inappropriately overreacted" with measures that ran counter to the World Health Organisation's directions.
At a meeting of the Communist Party's inner circle, President Xi Jinping stressed that China's top task was containing the virus.
He said local authorities would be punished severely if they failed to contain the outbreak.
"(We) must treat the fight of the outbreak as the most important task at hand," Mr Xi was quoted by state broadcaster CCTV as saying.
But he also urged officials to keep an eye on the economy, shortly after Chinese stocks suffered steep falls in the first day of trading after the long Lunar New Year break.
Officials in Wuhan have been criticised for withholding information about the outbreak until the end of last year despite knowing about the new illness weeks earlier.
China's death toll from the coronavirus has now surpassed that of the SARS crisis nearly two decades ago, with the Government on Monday saying it "urgently" needs medical equipment and surgical masks to tackle the outbreak.
The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 360, with more than 17,000 confirmed cases of infections.
The virus has since spread to more than 24 countries despite many governments imposing unprecedented travel bans on arrivals coming from China.
At the government meeting, Mr Xi said controlling the outbreak would have a "direct bearing on the stability of the overall economic and social situation as well as China's opening up", Xinhua said.
- with AFP