China could be liable for trillion of dollars in lawsuit for its mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic which has spread all over the world but appeared first in Wuhan as early as November last year, according to a London based think-tank.
The Henry Jackson Society said in a report published this week that nations could sue the ruling Chinese Communist Party for damages to their economies and national infrastructure after the country breached the International Health Regulations, a legally binding international treaty to which China is a signatory.
“These breaches allowed the outbreak to rapidly spread outside Wuhan, its place of origin,” the report said, citing the failure to disclose evidence of human to-human transmission for as long as three weeks after first becoming aware of it.
Beijing also provided the World Health Organization (WHO) with “erroneous information” about the number of infections in early January, while failing to ban the trade in “dangerous viral host species for human consumption,” it said.
Chinese health authorities also allowed five million people to leave Wuhan by announcing a lockdown but not immediately implementing it, while also being aware that the coronavirus was spreading between people, the report found.
It cited a University of Southampton study which found that the spread of COVID-19 could have been reduced by around 95 percent if the authorities had acted three weeks earlier.
“Potential damages liable against China at the time of writing could run to … US$4 trillion from just the G7 nations,” the report said, citing 10 potential legal avenues for action against China.
The Society recommended claimants use the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hong Kong courts, dispute resolutions through bilateral investment treaties and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The International Health Regulations bind member states in their handling of health issues in general and highly transmissible diseases in particular, and were adopted in the wake of the 2003 SARS epidemic during which China was also criticized over an attempted cover-up.
They require signatory states facing potential outbreaks to monitor and share all information including clinical descriptions, laboratory results, sources of infection and type of risk, numbers of human cases and deaths, conditions affecting the spread of the disease, and the health measures employed to tackle it.
The report came as one of Asia’s leading religious figures said China should compensate the rest of the world for its handling of the coronavirus epidemic, which is now a pandemic.
“The Chinese regime led by the all-powerful [Chinese President Xi Jinping] and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)–not its people–owes us all an apology, and compensation for the destruction it has caused,” Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, said.
“At a minimum it should write off the debts of other countries, to cover the cost of COVID-19,” Bo said. “For the sake of our common humanity, we must not be afraid to hold this regime to account.”
“Its failure has unleashed a global contagion killing thousands,” he said, also citing the University of Southampton study.
In Washington last week, a group of Senators and Representatives said they planned to introduce the “Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act,” which would authorize the president to sanction foreign officials who suppress or distort information about international public health crises like the Wuhan coronavirus.
Dr. Li was the whistle-blowing doctor who was disciplined for sharing warnings of the pandemic on social media an later died of COVID-19. (Source: RFA)