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US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has come under fire for suggesting that the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China could be beneficial for his country’s economy.
During a Fox News interview on Thursday, Mr Ross said: “The fact is [the virus] does give business yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain.
“I think it will help accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”
Coronavirus has killed more than 210 people in China’s Hubei province, where the illness was first detected in December.
It has also infected more than 9,800 people globally.
Democrat Congressman Don Beyer tweeted: “Wilbur Ross’s reaction to a disease killing hundreds is to talk about ways to make money off it. Somehow they always find a way to be worse.”
Congressional candidate Lindsey Boylan wrote: “That a guy can get to his level of prominence while having this kind of stuff come out of his mouth casually says a lot about where we are as a country.”
American Public Health Association executive director Georges Benjamin said: “You have somebody of that stature who makes an irresponsible comment, speaking on matters in which he has no expertise and there’s no scientific or historical evidence to what he’s saying.
“With this kind of new disease, you want as much openness as you can. If you suppress that openness, which this will do, then you absolutely make it worse and more people will get sick and more people will die.”
Boston University School of Public Health dean Sandro Galea warned that infectious diseases “threaten all of us” and that there was never a positive consequence from an outbreak.
He added that Mr Ross’s comments “rest on a misunderstanding of how infectious diseases are transmitted.
“There’s a responsibility that public officials have to communicate in an informed manner that educates the public and moves us towards an understanding of what actually generates help,” Professor Galea said.
“A comment like this achieves the exact opposite.”
Mr Ross made his comments just hours before the World Health Organisation reversed a previous decision and declared the coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern” after the first human-to-human transmission was announced.
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