Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday criticized China and Iran for allegedly suppressing information about the spread of coronavirus and warned the countries’ efforts at censorship are harming a global response.
The secretary’s remarks come as the U.S. considers a response to China’s expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters — a response that came in opposition to the Journal’s editorial published criticizing Beijing’s handling of the viral outbreak.
Pompeo, during a briefing on Tuesday, accused China of suppressing information and exacerbating the outbreak.
“Had China permitted its own — and foreign journalists and medical personnel — to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge,” he said to reporters.
The vast majority of the over 2,600 deaths from coronavirus have occurred in China since the outbreak first began in late December. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its latest situation report said there are over 77,000 cases in China and over 2,000 globally.
At least 23 people have died around the world, and cases have been identified in 29 countries, including parts of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Canada and the U.S.
Later on in his remarks, the secretary said that Iran is also hiding information about the number of people who contracted the virus. The WHO estimates that eight people have died among a total of 43 confirmed cases.
However, reports out of Iran are contradictory to the organization’s tallies. An Iranian lawmaker claimed that 50 people have died in the city of Qom and the deputy health minister, who confirmed he tested positive for coronavirus Tuesday, said the number of deaths stand at 12.
The Iranian deaths are the highest number of deaths outside of China.
“The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating that the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,” Pompeo said.
“All nations, including Iran should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations.”
In a recent effort to combat the disease in the U.S., the Trump administration has asked Congress for $2.5 billion in additional funding.