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30 Jan, 2020 16:18

Chinese coronavirus will bring jobs back to America, US commerce secretary says

Chinese coronavirus will bring jobs back to America, US commerce secretary says

President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to bring jobs back to the United States. According to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the outbreak of the deadly Wuhan coronavirus might help him fulfil that pledge.

Since it first infected customers at an animal market in the city of Wuhan in December, the SARS-like coronavirus has killed at least 170 people, infected nearly 8,000 people, and spread to every region in China and 19 other countries.

But to US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, there’s an upside. 

Speaking on Fox Business on Thursday, Ross said that while he doesn’t want to take “a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease,” the outbreak will “help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to US, probably some to Mexico as well.”

The disease, he said, gives businesses “yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain… It’s another risk factor that people need to take into account.”

Ross was mocked on Twitter, with one commenter calling him a “plague enthusiast.”

The spread of the coronavirus has shaken global markets, with Wall Street opening down nearly one percent on Thursday. One day earlier, auto giant Toyota announced it would halt production in China until at least February 9, and asked its Chinese employees to avoid unnecessary travel. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Wednesday that further economic disruption could follow, with the virus causing “travel restrictions and business closures” throughout east Asia.

As Ross spoke, officials in China scrambled to contain the spread of the virus, which causes flu-like symptoms in patients, and can lead to death by pneumonia or organ failure. Travel restrictions have been imposed on tens of millions of people in at least 16 cities, and Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to “win this defensive battle” against the “devil” epidemic, state media reported on Tuesday.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, with some causing illness in people and others affecting animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Animal coronaviruses can sometimes evolve to spread between people, as was the case when the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or ‘Camel Flu’ broke out in 2017, and when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) first spread to humans in China in 2002.

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The World Health Organization is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday to decide whether the coronavirus outbreak constitutes a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” The WHO already met twice last week to discuss the outbreak, opting both times not to label it an international emergency.

Since the SARS emergency of 2002, only six epidemics have been deemed international emergencies by the WHO, last year’s Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo being the most recent.

President Trump struck a different tone to Ross on Wednesday, promising that America’s “best experts” are “on top of” the epidemic, and vowing to help China combat the deadly virus.

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