US officials believe China covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak—and how contagious the disease is—to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it, intelligence documents show. Chinese leaders "intentionally concealed the severity" of the pandemic from the world in early January, according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated May 1 and obtained by the AP. The revelation comes as the Trump administration has intensified its criticism of China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying Sunday that that country was responsible for the spread of disease and must be held accountable. The sharper rhetoric coincides with administration critics saying the government's response to the virus was slow and inadequate.
President Trump's political opponents have accused him of lashing out at China, a geopolitical foe but critical US trade partner, in an attempt to deflect criticism at home. Not classified but marked "for official use only," the analysis states that, while downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. It attempted to cover up doing so by "denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data," the analysis states. The report also says China held off informing the World Health Organization that the coronavirus "was a contagion" for much of January so it could order medical supplies from abroad—and that its imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves increased sharply.
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