'Naive' to Claim China Handled Coronavirus Outbreak Better Than Other Countries, Says Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron said it would be "naive" to argue that China had handled the COVID-19 outbreak "much better" than other countries.

In an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, Macron said things had happened in China that people in the wider world "don't know about." His comments come as other world leaders raise questions about official information coming from Beijing.

The French president also dismissed the idea that a weakness of democracy had been exposed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, and said Europe could not accept some countries turning to authoritarianism.

"The choices made and what China is today, which I respect, let's not be so naive as to say it's been much better at handling this," the French president told the Financial Times.

"We don't know. There are clearly things that have happened that we don't know about."

Macron also warned against western democracies abandoning their "fundamental DNA" amid the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuking the argument that authoritarian government might be preferable in a health crisis.

French President Emmanuel Macron Wears Face Mask
French President Emmanuel Macron talks with health workers as he visits a medical center in Pantin, near Paris, on April 7, 2020 Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Newsweek has contacted the Chinese embassy for comment and will update this article with any response.

Macron issued his comments on China in the same week it suddenly increased the coronavirus death toll in the city of Wuhan, where cases of COVID-19 were first reported.

The state Xinhua News Agency quoted an unnamed official saying that the changing statistics owed to "belated, missed and mistaken reporting" in the early stages of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, China has recorded 83,760 confirmed cases of COVID-19, making its official number of infections lower than those reported by France and the U.S.

President Macron is not the only European politician to pour cold water on talk of China having a better response to the novel coronavirus and question data coming out of the country.

The U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, standing in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a Thursday briefing, said Beijing would have to answer "hard questions" about the origins of the virus and whether the country could have stopped it spreading sooner.

President Donald Trump said the number of COVID-19 deaths and infections reported by China appeared "a little bit on the light side" earlier this month.

"Their numbers seem to be a little bit on the light side. And I'm being nice when I say that, relative to what we witnessed and what was reported," he told reporters.

A new report published by Associated Press this week revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping delayed telling the public of the scale of COVID-19's spread until more than 3,000 cases were confirmed.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson later called the report "unfair" and argued that Beijing had alerted the World Health Organization in a "timely manner."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.