Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said during an exclusive interview on “Sunday Morning Futures” that China "cornered" the personal protective equipment (PPE) market during the coronavirus outbreak and “is profiteering.”
Navarro, who is also the National Defense Production Act policy coordinator, made the comment on Sunday reacting to a recent Fox News report, which cited multiple sources, that there is increasing confidence that the COVID-19 outbreak likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory, though not as a bioweapon but as part of China's attempt to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States.
Navarro, who was one of the first to warn about the novel coronavirus, noted “China did [several things] over the course of this thing,” which, he said, “led to the deaths of many people worldwide.”
“First of all, the virus was spawned in China. Second of all, they hid the virus behind the shield of the World Health Organization. The third thing they did was basically hoard personal protective equipment and now they’re profiteering from it,” Navarro told host Maria Bartiromo, referencing the fact that many states have been dealing with a shortage of PPE for health care workers during the coronavirus crisis.
Sources believe the initial transmission of the virus – a naturally occurring strain that was being studied there – was bat-to-human and that "patient zero" worked at the laboratory, then went into the population in Wuhan.
The sources explained that there was an extensive cover-up of data and information about COVID-19 orchestrated by the Chinese government.
Documents detail early efforts by doctors at the lab and early efforts at containment. The Wuhan wet market initially identified as a possible point of origin never sold bats, and the sources tell Fox News that blaming the wet market was an effort by China to deflect blame from the laboratory, along with the country's propaganda efforts targeting the U.S. and Italy.
On Thursday, China’s foreign ministry pushed back on the suspicion that the virus escaped from the facility, by citing statements from the World Health Organization that there is no evidence the coronavirus came from a laboratory.
China moved quickly to shut down travel domestically from Wuhan to the rest of China, but did not stop international flights from Wuhan.
Additionally, the sources tell Fox News the World Health Organization (WHO) was complicit from the beginning in helping China cover its tracks.
“What we know is that the ground zero for this virus was within a few miles of that lab,” Navarro noted.
“I think it's incumbent on China to prove that it wasn't that lab,” Navarro went on to say.
He added that “more importantly, we know that for a critical six-week period of time, China used its influence at the World Health Organization to hide the virus from the world. This was a time where that virus could have been contained in Wuhan; instead, 5 million Chinese people went out from Wuhan and propagated the virus around the world.”
Navarro went on to explain what he thinks “should be very disturbing to every American.”
“During that period of time, that six-week interval when they were hiding this virus from the world, China went from a net exporter of personal protective equipment, they are the largest producer of that in the world, to a large net importer,” Navarro said. “They basically went around and vacuumed up virtually all of the PPE around the world, including a lot from this country, which was for humanitarian reasons sharing our PPE with them, and what that did was leave people in New York, Milan, and everywhere in-between defenseless when it came time to have that PPE.”
“Now what's happening today, which is equally alarming, is China is sitting on that hoard of PPE where it cornered the market and is profiteering,” he continued. “I have cases that are coming across my desk where $0.50 masks made in China are being sold to hospitals here in America for as much as $8.”
As of Sunday, more than 2.3 million people around the world have tested positive for the new coronavirus and more than 162,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. In America more than 735,000 cases have been reported and 39,000 people have died.
Navarro noted the death toll on Sunday and said that China “may attempt to use this crisis now to advance their own agenda worldwide.”
He went on to say that his current focus is “to make sure people have everything they need here.”
Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo, Bret Baier and Gregg Re contributed to this report.