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Maas: Trump coronavirus response took 'too long'

April 10, 2020

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has criticized Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it was too slow. He also condemned China and Hungary's response to the spread of COVID-19.

Heiko Maas sits in front of a white board
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Köhler

Germany's foreign minister on Friday said he thought the US had not shown enough urgency in its response to the crisis, saying that the virus had not been taken seriously.

In an interview with the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Maas said that Germany and the EU could not look to Washington or Beijing as models in their handling of the crisis.

 "China took very authoritarian measures, while in the US, the virus was played down for a long time," said Maas. "These are two extremes, neither of which can be a model for Europe."

Read moreGermany’s coronavirus response: Separating fact from fiction

Maas told the magazine he hoped Washington would rethink its international relationships in light of the coronavirus crisis, adding that aggressive trade policies may have hurt the country's ability to procure protective equipment.

"Let us hope that the US will come out of the crisis better than it started. There really isn't any dispute, even in the USA that many of the measures taken were too late. Let's see what the American government's approach to discussions leads to, whether the 'America First' model really works. "

Authoritarianism 'not necessary'

The foreign minister said China should not pretend that its authoritarian approach to implementing a lockdown had been proved correct.

"It is obvious that such narratives are being worked on, " said Maas. "But I can only warn against anyone falling for it. In any case, corona does not show that any one model is superior to the other. That is why it is so important that we don't get into a tailspin in Europe. An authoritarian system is not necessary to stay operational in such a pandemic."

Read moreWhat is life like in post-lockdown Wuhan?

The virus first broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, but it has since infected more than 1.6 million people worldwide, killing almost 100,000.

Hungary actions 'not proportionate'

Maas also said powers adopted by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, viewed widely as using the pandemic to indefinitely expand his authoritarian rule, went too far.

"In our view, they are not proportionate, partly because they are not limited in time."

Read moreHungary: Law to fight coronavirus creates 'uncertainty' for journalists

The comments by Maas echoed those of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who said last week that action to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus should be "limited" and "strictly proportionate."

Orban, whose party dominates the Hungarian parliament, has been granted the right to rule by decree amid the pandemic, with no time-limit on these powers and the ability to jail people for up to five years if they spread "fake news" about the virus.

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Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.