WASHINGTON — The Trump administration stepped up its campaign of blaming China for the deadly coronavirus pandemic, with a top aide suggesting Beijing sent airline passengers to spread the infection worldwide.

“The virus was spawned in Wuhan province, patient zero was in November,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“The Chinese, behind the shield of the World Health Organization, for two months hid the virus from the world and then sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese on aircraft to Milan, New York and around the world to seed that.”

Milan and New York went on to become hot spots for the pandemic.

Navarro’s comments add to the almost daily barrage of U.S. attacks on China, including suggestions that the virus escaped from a laboratory in the central city of Wuhan.

As recently as last week, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo ratcheted up his criticism, asserting China covered up the origins of the virus.

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“They could have kept it in Wuhan,” Navarro said. “Instead, it became a pandemic. That’s why I say the Chinese did that to Americans and they are responsible.”

On Thursday, Trump said that while he still suspects the outbreak may be connected to the Wuhan virology lab, he said it was unlikely the Chinese deliberately unleashed the pathogen. “I think more likely it got out of control,” he said.

Navarro also dismissed complaints offered by whistleblower Rick Bright, who had served as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until the end of last month.

“I don’t mourn the loss of people when they leave this bureaucracy,” Navarro said. “There’s always going to be somebody better to replace them, somebody more loyal, not to the president necessarily, but to the Trump agenda. That’s what’s important.”

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