PM wants answers from China, other countries on early days of COVID-19

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there are many questions for countries, particularly China, around the origins of COVID-19 and how they reacted in the early days of the pandemic.

At the same time, Trudeau told a daily news briefing, the spread of the virus requires a global, co-ordinated response.

He emphasized that countries are supporting one another and moving forward during a difficult time.

Trudeau was responding to a question about a Globe and Mail newspaper story that quoted Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, Dominic Barton, as saying China is alienating foreign countries and injuring its goodwill abroad as its diplomats have adopted a heavy-handed approach around the world.

The story said Barton is also backing a rigorous review of the World Health Organization and the spread of the novel coronavirus once the worst of the pandemic is over.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has accused the UN agency of covering up early aspects of the outbreak and said China initially withheld information about it from the organization.

More recently, Trump and his supporters have put forward an unproven theory that an infectious disease laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the source of the pandemic.

China’s envoy in Ottawa, Cong Peiwu, recently told The Canadian Press that while the United States is “smearing” his country over COVID-19, the People’s Republic appreciates Canada’s “cool-headed” co-operation on battling the pandemic.

Even so, two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been detained in China for more than 500 days over allegations of breaching national security, heightening tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.

They were imprisoned in December 2018 after Canada arrested Chinese technology executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant, plunging Sino-Canadian relations to a new low.

At the briefing Wednesday, Trudeau suggested Canada would press Beijing for answers on COVID-19 at an opportune time.

“I think it’s clear that there are many questions for countries around the origins and behaviour in early days on the COVID-19 situation, particularly questions for China … to be asked in the coming months so we can get answers.”

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