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Virus outbreak in China not grounds for sanctions against Beijing, Lavrov stresses

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham earlier submitted a bill to Congress, which envisages imposing sanctions against China, if Beijing fails to produce an accounting of the events that led to the outbreak

MOSCOW, May 15. /TASS/. The emergence of the virus in China cannot serve as the ground for slapping sanctions against that country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with RBC media group on Friday.

"There is the need to find the specific causes of the emergence of this virus and understand why the process of its person-to-person transmission has begun and so on," Russia’s top diplomat said.

"Eventually, this will be important for developing an antidote and will help secure ourselves against this threat, instead of talking that the virus emerged on a marketplace in China and that is why it is necessary to impose sanctions against that country," Lavrov said.

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham earlier submitted a bill to Congress, which envisages imposing sanctions against China, if Beijing "fails to cooperate and provide a full accounting of the events leading up to the outbreak of COVID-19."

China has informed the world about the epidemic in Wuhan back in late December, statements slamming Beijing for attempting to conceal information about the pandemic are simply wrong, Sergey Lavrov elaborated.

"Everybody learned about what’s happening there back in late December, when they made sure that this is indeed an epidemic. In January, specialists were already engaged in talks about it, particularly under the WHO auspices. In early February, WHO experts visited Wuhan and, by the way, one Russian specialist was among them," the minister emphasized. "Therefore, to say that the Chinese were shutting out WHO or that WHO was not aware or was aware but covered up certain information is at least wrong."

"Of course, nobody expected these developments, such a scale of the pandemic. However, this is an unprecedented situation, actions had to be taken in conditions when the experience of tackling previous pandemics was not enough, this pandemic is much more severe. And I believe that WHO specialists should not be groundlessly accused but be supported and encouraged in every way," Lavrov specified.

He emphasized that the majority of WHO Secretariat employees are representatives of the countries that scold the organization the hardest, "demanding that the organization should be almost shut down or radically reformed." "The United States, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Australia, Portugal and the United Kingdom make up more than 30% of the WHO Secretariat, the category of specialists who professionally address epidemics and work with healthcare in general," the minister added. "Moreover, most Western countries have specialists in the WHO Secretariat in numbers that far outweigh the average quota which these Western states are supposed to have: Western states account for one-third from roughly 2,100 specialists. Italy, Canada and Australia have 60 people, China has fewer than 40. Russia has 20. I’m sure you’ll agree that if China or some other non-Western country had a malicious plan to abuse WHO to advance their selfish and closed interests, how can a group of 40 people do that if it is faced with more than 700 Western specialists, united by ally obligations as part of NATO and the European Union?"

"Therefore, I would now concentrate on helping experts, helping professionals to come up with an antidote, rather than try to win some geopolitical, electoral or other advantages," Lavrov concluded.

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus — named COVID-19 by the WHO — have been reported in every corner of the globe.

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, over 4,543,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 303,000 deaths have been reported. In addition, so far, over 1,712,000 individuals have recovered from the illness across the globe.