Missouri sues China for 'deceit' and mishandling of coronavirus crisis

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (Image credit: Andrew Harrer | Getty)

The US state of Missouri is suing the Chinese government over its handling of coronavirus which it says has led to severe economic losses.

The lawsuit, the first of its kind, claims that Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information, arrested whistleblowers, denied human-to-human transmission in the face of mounting evidence.

It also claims that it destroyed critical medical research, permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus, and even hoarded personal protective equipment, as a result caused the global pandemic that was preventable.

At least 6,105 people have been confirmed to have the virus in Missouri and at least 229 have died, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University.

Legal experts have said the lawsuit faces an uphill battle because China is protected by sovereign immunity.

Missouri's lawsuit alleges that while the Chinese medical community had indications of human-to-human transmission of the virus, they did not inform the World Health Organization when they first reported the outbreak.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt alleges China did little to stop the spread of the virus. Mr Schmitt claims Missouri residents have suffered possibly tens of billions of dollars in economic damages.

In a statement he said that the impact of the virus is very real and that thousands have been infected and many have died.

“Families have been separated from dying loved ones, small businesses have had to shut their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table.

He added: "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."

The civil lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, is against the Chinese government, Chinese Communist Party and other Chinese officials and institutions. Legal experts have questioned the move and how far it will get. A legal doctrine called sovereign immunity offers foreign governments broad protection from being sued in US courts.

Unemployment numbers going up by the day Prior to the pandemic Missouri had one of its lowest unemployment rates of the past decade, but on information and belief, Missouri's unemployment rate is now the highest it has been since the Great Depression the suit has claimed.

With unemployment claims rising rapidly due to crisis, the Missouri Department of Labour is taking steps to aid both those out of work and impacted businesses.

This month the midwest state reported an unemployment rate for March of 4.5%, up from 3.5% in February.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development said employment in the state decreased by 20,900 jobs over the month. It said the April jobs report would more fully reflect the impact of coronavirus shutdowns.

Since March 15, more than 237,000 Missourians have filed for unemployment, the state has said, and roughly one in 10 US. workers had lost their jobs in the three weeks ending April 9.

Missouri is now distributing an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. It is also processing claims of unemployment for those who originally did not qualify for regular unemployment benefits. Claims include those who are self-employed, gig workers, independent contractors and others.

Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, those who qualify will be eligible for a weekly benefit payment between $133 and $320 plus a $600 additional federal supplement payment under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program.