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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Attorney General Eric Schmitt is suing the Chinese government, claiming officials’ actions to suppress information on COVID-19 in December led to loss of life and harsh economic effects in Missouri.

“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,” Schmitt said. “They must be held accountable for their actions.”

The lawsuit was filed Monday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in downtown St. Louis. The Chinese Communist Party, national officials, and institutions were also named in the suit.

The suit alleges the Chinese government knew of the emergence of the COVID-19 virus and the possibility of human-to-human transmission in early December. Despite that evidence, the Chinese government did not report the outbreak to the World Health Organization (WHO) until December 31, 2019. And when the Chinese government did report the outbreak to WHO, it downplayed the potential of human-to-human spread.

Schmitt, citing a report from The New York Times, also claims China allowed approximately 175,000 people to leave Wuhan on January 1, 2020 as part of new year travel and thus failed to contain the spread of the virus.

The lawsuit accuses the Chinese government of suppressing whistleblowers in the country from alerting the public to the dangers of COVID-19, going so far as to discipline a doctor in Wuhan for instructing staff to wear face masks because the doctor believed human-to-human transmission was a possibility.

The attorney general is seeking potential civil penalties and restitution, as well as punitive damages for lives lost and harm caused to businesses in the state.

As of April 20, 2020, Missouri reported more than 5,800 cases and 209 deaths.

You can read the lawsuit below.