Coronavirus: China forces Italy to buy back PPE it had donated - top US official

China is making Italy buy back the personal protective equipment (PPE) it donated during the initial spread of the coronavirus, a top Trump administration official claims.

When COVID-19 cases were at their peak in China, Italy sent urgently-needed PPE gear to help its health officials.

But the virus spread around the world and hit Italy particularly hard - killing over 17,000 people so far. Last month China sent a plane full of medical supplies, including masks and respirators, back to help.

Now a high-level US source has revealed this equipment came at a cost.

"Before the virus hit Europe, Italy sent tons of PPE to China to help China protect its own population," the official told The Spectator.

"China then has sent Italian PPE back to Italy - some of it, not even all of it… and charged them for it."

China has been blasted for its response following the pandemic, which has killed over 80,000 so far around the world.

At first, it ignored warnings from doctors about the emergence of the virus and then punished doctors for speaking out.

US sources say China's failure to share information about the virus allowed it to spread to other countries and hindered their own preparations.

And citing a secret US intelligence report, Bloomberg reported last week that China is still concealing the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

"We were a month behind because the Chinese did not share information," the senior administration official told The Spectator.

Attempts by China to help other countries affected by the virus as part of a worldwide diplomatic outreach have backfired.

Countries have been forced to return testing kits sold by China due to being defective. Other equipment such as face masks reportedly did not meet safety standards.

"It’s so disingenuous for Chinese officials now to say we are the ones who are helping the Italians or we are the ones who are helping the developing world when, in fact, they are the ones who infected all of us," the top administration official told The Spectator.

"Of course they should be helping. They have a special responsibility to help because they are the ones who began the spread of the coronavirus and did not give the information required to the rest of the world to plan accordingly."