A prominent Chinese journalist has launched a bizarre attack on Donald Trump, accusing him of engaging in “witchcraft” and declaring the White House would be “burned down” if it was in China.
Hu Xijin is the editor of the newspaper Global Times, a Communist Party mouthpiece, and took to Twitter overnight to mock the US President’s use of the drug hydroxychloroquine.
Mr Trump admitted yesterday that he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against coronavirus, despite its effectiveness as a treatment being debated.
“President Trump is leading the US’s struggle against pandemic with witchcraft, and as a result, more than 90,000 people have died,” Xijin wrote in a now-deleted tweet.
“If it were in China, the White House would have been burned down by angry people.”
Xijin is considered something of a powerbroker in Beijing and close with key figures of the government.
His state-controlled newspaper regularly levels attacks on western governments, seemingly at the direction of Beijing.
He has repeatedly attacked Australia recently, particularly over Scott Morrison’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.
In late April, he described Australia as “gum stuck on China’s shoes” in a scathing editorial that also threatened economic consequences for the country.
“After the epidemic, we need to have more risk awareness when doing business with Australia and also when we send our children to study there,” he wrote.
“Australia is always there, making trouble. It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off.”
It came just days after China’s ambassador to Australia, Jingye Cheng, told the Australian Financial Review that there could be a boycott of local goods.
“Maybe the ordinary people will say ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?’,” he said.
Mr Trump first touted hydroxychloroquine as a “miracle cure” for coronavirus in early April, sparking a surge in demand for the medication.
“It’s a very strong, powerful medicine, but it doesn’t kill people,” Mr Trump said. “We have some very good results and some very good tests. What really do we have to lose?”
A major clinical trial is under way in Australia, with 2250 healthcare professionals recruited from several hospitals across the country.
The study, called COVID SHIELD, aims to reduce COVID-19 infections among medical staff and explore whether hydroxychloroquine is effective as a preventative medication.
Professor Ian Wicks, head of Clinical Translation at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, said the drug has been used for 50 years, initially for malaria and then for auto-immune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
“Rheumatologists are very comfortable with the drug’s safety profile. Like any medication hydroxychloroquine has certain side effects, but fortunately these are well known and quite uncommon,” Professor Wicks said.
“The medical specialists conducting COVID SHIELD are highly experienced in using hydroxychloroquine in the clinic.
“All participants will be screened based on rigorous selection criteria and closely monitored throughout the trial to ensure safety.”
But there’s scepticism within the medical community surrounding hydroxychloroquine, with the American College of Physicians recently declaring there’s no evidence that it’s useful.
Two recent clinical trials also suggested that hydroxychloroquine shouldn’t routinely be used for patients with COVID-19.
A French study concluded that the drug doesn’t significantly reduce admission to intensive care or death in patients who were hospitalised with pneumonia due to COVID-19.
A study in China determined that the drug didn’t help hospitalised patients to recover more quickly from the virus and found that adverse illness events were higher in those who were given hydroxychloroquine.
Dr Gaetan Burgio from the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University said the findings of hydroxychloroquine trials “are inconclusive and debated”.
“Recent results from clinical trials indicated a possible improvement in shortening the duration of the infection. However, the results are disputed and the clinical trials inconclusive.
“To date, there are no clear indications that chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are a treatment option.”
“Over 100 human clinical trials are underway against COVID-19,” Dr Burgio said.
“It is possible that some drugs could possibly ‘cure’ coronavirus, but it is too early to tell. We at least know which ones don’t ‘cure’ coronavirus, such as anti-HIV drugs.”