“What the State Department has suggested is a red line,” a European diplomat said. “You cannot agree with this branding of this virus and trying to communicate this.”
The proposed draft statement by the United States also blamed China for the pandemic’s spread, the diplomat told CNN.
Although the World Health Organization officially has dubbed the illness Covid-19 or coronavirus, a 12-paragraph draft statement circulated by the US among the G7 ministers referred to it as the “Wuhan virus.” Because the US holds the presidency for the international coalition — which also includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada — it was responsible for penning the draft joint statement.
A French statement about the meeting referred to the “COVID-19 pandemic.” And in a sign that the loaded term isn’t a priority for all members of the Trump administration, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signed on to a G7 finance ministers’ statement that they were enhancing coordination “to respond to the global health, economic, and financial impacts associated with the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
A joint statement by President Donald Trump and the other G7 leaders after a March 16 videoconference made no mention of China at all.
“With respect to the statement, I always think about these meetings the right answer is to make sure we have the same message coming out of it,” he said during a press availability at the State Department.
Pompeo said that the pandemic was “the most pressing agenda item” at Wednesday’s meeting.
“There was a lot of discussion today amongst the G7 about the intentional disinformation campaign that China has been and continues to be engaged in,” he said.
China reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause to the World Health Organization on December 31, while Chinese officials say they began regular contact with the US about the virus on January 3. The first US case was confirmed January 20.
State Department officials have said that the use of the phrase “Wuhan virus” is meant to counter such disinformation. However, critics say the phrase is inflammatory, particularly as Asians and Asian Americans in the US report heightened incidents of racism and xenophobia.
When the virus was officially named, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that “having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing.”