- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Missouri filed a lawsuit Tuesday demanding China repay the state “billions of dollars” lost because of the coronavirus, saying the communist government was reckless in its handling of the disease.

Attorney General Eric S. Schmitt said China hid details of the outbreak, hoarded medical supplies and may even have allowed the virus to escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology — a possibility The Washington Times raised in January, and which has recently gained ground as the U.S. government investigates.

At the very least, the Chinese government and its ruling Communist Party should have known that research on such a dangerous virus was a recipe for disaster, given previous findings of safety concerns at the Wuhan lab, Mr. Schmitt argued.

“The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease. They must be held accountable for their actions,” Mr. Schmitt said.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, says the cost to Missouri could “total in the tens of billions of dollars, even if only one outbreak occurs.”

And that doesn’t count the human toll.

“Missouri families with loved ones in nursing homes have been unable to visit them, and some have been unable to visit dying relatives. As one St. Louis area woman tragically said of her stepfather, who died alone in a nursing home due to COVID-19, ‘He was always there for everyone. At the end he was all alone,’” the lawsuit says.

China has become a clear target in recent weeks as officials from President Trump on down say the nation where the outbreak was first detected was not forthcoming about the extent of the disease.

A number of lawmakers have announced bills to suspend China’s sovereign immunity in U.S. courts, which would make the government liable to private lawsuits.

Even if sovereign immunity isn’t waived for China itself, Mr. Schmitt says the Chinese Communist Party can be held responsible, since it directed the actions of officials.

Mr. Schmitt also sued a number of Chinese government agencies and provincial governments.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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