China says Australia's questions on its COVID-19 handling groundless

China says Australia's questions on its COVID-19 handling groundless

Australian flag waves in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Australian flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People during a welcoming ceremony for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (not in picture) in Beijing, China, April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING: China dismissed as groundless on Monday (Apr 20) Australia's questioning of how Beijing handled the coronavirus pandemic, saying it had been open and transparent, despite growing scepticism about the accuracy of its official death toll.

Australia's foreign minister, Marise Payne, called for an international investigation into the origins and spread of the virus, joining a chorus of concern over how China tackled the virus that emerged in its central city of Wuhan last year.

Since then the virus has caused nearly 2.4 million infections and more than 160,000 deaths worldwide, paralysing life and business in major cities.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman said Payne's remarks were "entirely without factual basis," adding that questioning China's transparency was unfounded and showed a lack of respect for the sacrifices of its people.

"China expresses deep concern and resolute opposition to this," Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing.

Australia's call comes amid rising criticism in recent weeks from the United States, including President Donald Trump, who said on Saturday that China should face consequences if it was "knowingly responsible" for the pandemic.

On Monday, China's National Health Commission reported 12 new infections, taking the mainland's tally to 82,747, while the death toll stood unchanged at 4,632.

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Source: Reuters/aa

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