The coronavirus could have been “snuffed out” if it had first emerged in the United States or even Taiwan, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday.
During a visit to Taiwan, Azar blamed China’s ruling Communist Party for allowing the virus to spiral out of control.
“The Chinese Communist Party has had the chance to warn the world and work with the world on battling the virus,” Azar said, according to Newsweek. “But they chose not to, and the cost of that choice mounts higher every day.
“I believe it is no exaggeration to say that if this virus had emerged in a place like Taiwan or the United States, it might have been snuffed out easily. The issue is not which country is the source. The issue is how that country responds.”
Azar added that China “did not live up to the binding obligations that it had under the International Health Regulations, betraying the cooperative spirit we need for global health.”
As of Tuesday morning, the virus had infected 20.3 million people worldwide. More than 740,000 deaths are attributed to it.
The U.S. leads the world in the number of cases (5.25 million) and deaths (around 166,000).
Russia announced Tuesday that it has a vaccine to protect people from the virus, which the World Health Organization is now reviewing to ensure its safety and efficacy.