US Vice-President Mike Pence blamed China and the US government’s own top health authority for missteps that have led to the rapid spread of the coronavirus in America. Pence made the comments after Bloomberg News reported that the US intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House that China has concealed the extent of the contagion’s outbreak in its country . Speaking to CNN , Pence suggested that the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should not have played down the contagion’s spread as it began to take hold in the country and accused China of delaying notification the rest of the world about the coronavirus’ spread. “I will be very candid with you and say that in mid-January the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low,” Pence said when asked why President Donald Trump had initially minimised the threat. “The very first case, which was someone who had been in China, which I believe took place in late January.” “What appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as much as a month earlier than that, that the outbreak was real in China,” Pence said. Opinion | Blaming China for the coronavirus will come back to haunt the West The Bloomberg report, which cited US government sources, said the classified report to the White House concluded that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths was intentionally incomplete. Trump said he had not received an intelligence briefing on China’s reporting when asked about the matter at a White House briefing on Wednesday, although he added that the country’s official numbers “seemed 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 said. Trump also suggested that he and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, were in agreement over the contagion having originated in China, following weeks of diplomatic mudslinging over the outbreak’s beginnings. “Where did it come from? I think we all understand where it came from and President Xi understands that,” he said. “And we don’t have to make a big deal out of it.” As US cases soared past 200,000 and deaths reached more than 4,600, Trump said on Wednesday: “We are going to have a couple of weeks starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, that are going to be horrific." The first US cases of coronavirus infection through “community spread”, or without any known connection to a region badly affected by the disease, were reported in the west coast states of Washington and California in the last week of February. Trump expected to provide some tariff relief, but not for Chinese imports The first US death from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, was confirmed in Washington state on February 29. Pence’s comments pick up where a volley of recriminations between Washington and Beijing over responsibility for the pandemic left off last month. After a phone call last week with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, Trump backed away from his earlier criticism of China for covering up what its local health authorities knew in December about the emergence of the coronavirus. Trump has also stopped using the term “Chinese virus”. Members of Pence’s White House coronavirus task force said on Tuesday that Covid-19 may kill 100,000 to 240,000 Americans before the contagion is brought under control in the US. The country has more than 200,000 confirmed cases and recorded over 4,500 deaths. Additional reporting by Owen Churchill Sign up now and get a 10% discount (original price US$400) off the China AI Report 2020 by SCMP Research. Learn about the AI ambitions of Alibaba, Baidu & JD.com through our in-depth case studies, and explore new applications of AI across industries. The report also includes exclusive access to webinars to interact with C-level executives from leading China AI companies (via live Q&A sessions). Offer valid until 31 May 2020.