By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States hopes that China can address the current COVID-19 outbreak as the toll of the virus is a global concern due to the size of the Chinese economy, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.
“The toll of the virus is of concern to the rest of the world given the size of China’s GDP, given the size of China’s economy,” Price told a daily briefing at the State Department.
“It’s not only good for China to be in a stronger position vis-a-vis COVID but it’s good for the rest of the world as well,” Price said.
He added that anytime the virus is spreading it has the potential to mutate and pose a threat everywhere. “We’ve seen that over the course of many different permutations of this virus and certainly another reason why we are so focused on helping countries around the world address COVID,” he said.
China reported its first COVID-related deaths in weeks on Monday amid rising doubts over whether the official count was capturing the full toll of a disease that is ripping through cities after the government relaxed strict anti-virus controls.
Monday’s two deaths were the first to be reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) since Dec. 3, days before Beijing announced that it was lifting curbs which had largely kept the virus in check for three years but triggered widespread protests last month.
The low number of deaths since curbs were lifted on Dec. 7 is inconsistent with the experience of other countries after similar moves. Officially China has suffered just 5,237 COVID-related deaths during the pandemic, including the latest two fatalities, a tiny fraction of its 1.4 billion population.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Eric Beech; Editing by Andrea Ricci)