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China says virus pushing US ties to brink of 'Cold War'

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington had been infected by a “political virus”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump pictured in 2017.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump pictured in 2017.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

CHINA HAS SAID that relations with the United States are “on the brink of a new Cold War”, fuelled in part by tensions over the coronavirus pandemic, as Muslims around the world celebrated a muted end to the holy month of Ramadan.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington had been infected by a “political virus” compelling figures there to continually attack China, but offered an olive branch by saying the country would be open to an international effort to find the coronavirus source.

“It has come to our attention that some political forces in the US are taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War,” he told reporters during a press conference at China’s week-long annual parliament session.

He spoke as more nations eased lockdown restrictions in a bid to salvage economies and lifestyles that have been savaged by the pandemic.

Hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world were celebrating a muted Eid al-Fitr, with Islam’s two most important mosques closed to worshippers in Mecca and Medina.

Still, churches were reopening in France, Spain’s football league announced it would kick off again on June 8, and thousands flocked to beaches in the US, where lockdowns and social distancing have become rights issues that have split communities.

Highly politicised

Globally about 342,000 people have been killed, and more than 5.3 million people infected by the virus, which most scientists believe jumped from animals to humans — possibly at a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The issue has become highly politicised, with US President Donald Trump accusing Beijing of a lack of transparency, and pushing the theory that the virus leaked from a Chinese maximum-security laboratory.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday blasted what he called efforts by US politicians to “fabricate rumours” about the virus origin and “stigmatise China”.

“China is open to working with the international scientific community to look into the source of the virus,” he said.

“At the same time, we believe that this should be professional, fair and constructive.”

With infection numbers stabilising in the West, many governments are trying to move towards lighter social distancing measures that they hope will revive moribund business and tourism sectors.

French churches were preparing to hold their first Sunday masses in more than two months after the government bowed to a ruling that they should be reopened — provided proper precautions were taken. 

“My cell phone is crackling with messages!” Father Pierre Amar, a priest in Versailles, said. 

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‘Robbed of joy’

France’s mosques, however, called on Muslims to stay at home for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. They said they would gradually resume services from June 3.

In Pakistan, thousands gathered in mosques, but celebrations were muted by the crash Friday of a passenger plane into a residential neighbourhood in Karachi, killing 97 on board.

The country’s leading English daily, Dawn, said the crash and coronavirus epidemic – that has killed over 1,000 people in Pakistan – had robbed the “country of whatever little joy had been left at the prospect of Eid”.

In Saudi Arabia, Eid prayers will be held at the two holy mosques in the cities of Mecca and Medina “without worshippers”, authorities said as the kingdom began a five-day curfew after infections quadrupled since the start of Ramadan.

For Christians in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre will reopen on Sunday -but with tight restrictions.

In Spain, which has enforced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns since mid-March, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sought to reassure potential visitors, saying that from July 1, “entry for foreign tourists into Spain will resume in secure conditions”.

Italy is also due to reopen its borders to foreign tourists from June 3.

© – AFP 2020

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