As fears continue to bubble up about the spread of the Coronavirus — with thousands of confirmed cases across the globe — the Trump administration revealed on Tuesday that Beijing turned down multiple offers to help combat the spread of the deadly disease.
During a press conference, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said the Chinese government rejected U.S. offers to send the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health experts to the country to assist with outbreak response.
“We are urging China — more cooperation and transparency are the most important steps you can take toward a more effective response,” Azar said, adding that the U.S. is “constantly preparing” for the event that the outbreak could worsen.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 4,590 people around the world are confirmed to have the virus, including 4,537 confirmed cases in China alone. As of Tuesday, 106 people had died in the country. The outbreak has been traced to Wuhan, China.
Meanwhile, there are five confirmed cases in the United States.
The U.S. government is advising people to reconsider traveling to China, and to avoid the area where the disease broke out.
This is not the first infectious disease outbreak to originate in China. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS broke out in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002. That outbreak ended up killing hundreds of people.
Since then, studies indicate China's health care system has improved when compared with others around the world.
The World Health Organization, in a study conducted between 1993 and 1997, ranked China 144 out of 190 when comparing the efficiency of health systems from across the globe. At that time, the United States ranked 37.
More recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded a Global Burden of Disease study to measure health care access and quality among 195 countries and territories, based on data from 2016. Overall, China ranked 48, compared to 29 for the United States. However, China was cited among the countries that had particularly large gaps between locations with the highest and lowest scores, an indication there was unequal access to services across areas and populations.
The paper also noted that China’s progress on personal health care access and quality quickened since 2000, but absolute differences between provinces remained high.
Wuhan is one of the most populous cities in central China.
Concerns persist about China’s response to the outbreak. Reuters reported this week that China has been slow to equip hospitals and medical centers with testing kits for the virus.
The World Health Organization has said China has agreed to allow international experts into the country as soon as possible to help, but it was not immediately known whether officials from the CDC would be included.