Sir Iain Duncan Smith has suggested China may have “shifted” the timeline of events at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, amid fears knowledge of a potential health crisis could have threatened a multi-billion pound trade deal with the US. The former Tory leader claimed China had known about the virus as early as October 2019 – two months before the World Health Organisation (WHO) was alerted.
According to the WHO, the health body was first alerted to “viral pneumonia” in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.
On January 9, the WHO reported Chinese authorities had determined the outbreak is caused by a novel coronavirus.
On January 14, WHO wrote on Twitter that preliminary investigations by the Chinese authorities had found “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”.
A day later, on January 15, China signed a £149billion ($200billion) trade deal with the US, which prevented Beijing from more crippling financial sanctions from Washington.
Sir Iain has called for an independent investigation into the timeline of events.
China has always denied any wrongdoing in connection with the spread of the virus.
In an interview with Sky News Australia, Sir Iain said: “The timeline seemed to have shifted around what they needed to do and what they didn’t want to be known.
“There is definitely a need for an independent inquiry to know what happened and how that happened.”
The former Tory leader expanded on his allegations during an interview with the US-based Hudson Institute think-tank, last month.
Sir Iain claimed China had a “second theme running” other than coronavirus during the window of December 15 and January 15.
He claims there was a “suppression of information” from Beijing to ensure there was “nothing to disrupt” a trade agreement between China and the US.
Sir Iain said: “If you look carefully at the dates in which this process unfolded, you will begin to see that there is a second theme running.
“It is my belief, and I think it’s born out now by the dates, that the Chinese government, on the 15th of December I think, was due to have a further set of sanctions imposed on it by the US, which I think was certainly over a trillion, which would have had a big effect on the Chinese economy.
“What they needed to do was to get through that and agree to the trade deal which would then be signed on the 15th of January.
“I think if you look at that carefully, you will see that there was a deal of suppression of information about human-to-human transmission, which now we believe was known about in at least November, some say earlier, through December and into January.”
He added: “It wasn’t until late January that there was any indication that China accepted and admitted they had an epidemic on their hands.
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“Now, the WHO is not without fault here, but we’re not here to discuss them.
“I do believe that, in desperation to make sure they had nothing to disrupt that trade deal, they made sure that none of this came out as it might’ve posed a threat.”
China and the WHO have always denied any claims of concealing information about the virus.
Coronavirus has now infected more than 25 million people and killed more than 840,000 people around the world.
China has consistently urged the US to stop what it sees as virus slander after US President Donald Trump constantly attacked the record of Beijing, as well as calling the disease the “China virus”.
The US should stop wasting time in its fight against the coronavirus and work with China to combat it, rather than spreading lies and attacking the country, the Chinese government’s top diplomat Wang Yi said.
State Councillor Wang, speaking at his annual news conference on the sidelines of China’s parliament, expressed his deep sympathies to the US for the pandemic.
Mr Wang said: “Regretfully, in addition to the raging coronavirus, a political virus is also spreading in the US. This political virus is using every opportunity to attack and smear China.
“Some politicians have ignored the most basic facts and concocted too many lies about China and plotted too many conspiracies.
“I want to say here: Don’t waste precious time any longer, and don’t ignore lives.
“What China and the United States need to do the most is to first learn from each other and share their experience in fighting against the epidemic, and help each country fight it.
“China has always advocated that, as the world’s largest developing country and the largest developed country, both of us bear a major responsibility for world peace and development
“China and the United States stand to gain from cooperation, and lose from confrontation.”