The United States ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, urged Chinese authorities “to abandon COVID deception” and demanded that China be open about the pneumonia outbreak that is sweeping the nation.
Children in China have been particularly affected by the outbreak, which has put a heavy burden on hospitals and medical staff—particularly in the northern cities. The high number of infections has prompted comparisons with the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, despite the fact that there hasn’t been any reported spike in critical cases or deaths.
These concerns have been echoed by netizens in other countries, fearful the disease could spread.
Emanuel, known for his direct manner of speaking in the administration of President Barack Obama and as Chicago mayor, stressed the importance of prioritizing human lives over downplaying the health crisis.
In a post on X, Emanuel expressed his concerns.
“China’s recent pneumonia outbreak raises serious questions, and the World Health Organization is asking them. It’s time to abandon COVID deception and delays as transparent and timely information saves lives,” Emanuel stated.
Chinese authorities did not immediately respond to Emanuel’s comments.
In response to inquiries from the WHO, Chinese health officials have identified the causes of this wave of infections as mycoplasma pneumoniae (commonly known as walking pneumonia), respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, and influenza.
Officials have said that no new viruses have been identified so far.
“Full cooperation with the international community is not an option, it’s a public health imperative. Will Beijing step up?” Emanuel said.
The current situation has placed a significant burden on China’s healthcare infrastructure.
Medical staff are overwhelmed and Chinese citizens have taken to social media to express their frustrations over long waits, sometimes exceeding a day, to access emergency departments. This crisis echoes the challenges faced earlier this year when the Chinese government abruptly lifted its strict anti-COVID measures.
ProMed, the alert system known for its role in bringing attention to the coronavirus outbreak in 2019, first reported numerous children being admitted to hospitals with high fevers but without typical pneumonia symptoms.
The geographical spread of cases now spans from Beijing and Liaoning in the north to Guangzhou in the far south.
Ambassador Emanuel, who assumed his diplomatic role in Japan in 2021, has previously challenged the Chinese government on various issues.
In recent months, he has commented on Beijing’s ban on Japanese seafood following Japan’s release of treated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the dismissal of high-ranking Chinese officials by President Xi Jinping.