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After US and India, China now blames Australia for COVID-19 pandemic

Beijing has been pushing the theory that the novel coronavirus was imported into China from another country since October when experts tracing an outbreak in Shandong province’s Qingdao, found living virus samples on packets of imported frozen cod.

December 07, 2020 / 12:08 PM IST
File image: Cleaning workers wearing protective gear clean and disinfect a wet market following the COVID-19 outbreak at Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, China in July 2020. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

File image: Cleaning workers wearing protective gear clean and disinfect a wet market following the COVID-19 outbreak at Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, China in July 2020. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Amid a brewing diplomatic spat between China and Australia, the former has claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic started with cold-chain storage imports from Down Under, among other countries.

An ‘investigative’ report by Global Times, considered the mouthpiece of the Chinese government, suggested the idea of the novel coronavirus having been imported into the Huanan wet market in 2019 “cannot be ruled out”. However, it did add that “more evidence is needed” to ascertain the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Beijing has been pushing the theory that the virus was imported into China from another country since October when experts tracing an outbreak in Shandong province’s Qingdao city, found living virus samples on packets of imported frozen cod.

“Global Times reporters found from media reports that stores in the Huanan Seafood Market used to sell imported cold-chain seafood, such as king crab and arctic shellfish, as well as meat products from Brazil and Germany,” the report said.

“The city also imported Australian steak, Chilean cherries and Ecuadorian seafood before 2019, according to the information from the website of the city’s commerce bureau,” the report added. Canada, Brazil and Spain were the other countries identified as having trade relations with Hubei Province in China.

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This is not the first time China has pointed the finger of blame elsewhere. Earlier, Chinese authorities had blamed Italy and the United States, largely without evidence, for the outbreak.

In November too, a team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences had argued that the novel coronavirus may have possibly originated in India, among other countries, in the summer of 2019. They further pointed to eight other countries: Bangladesh, the United States, Greece, Australia, India, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia or Serbia – from where, they claimed, the virus may have originated.

The Chinese scientists claimed the deadly virus emerged by transferring from animals to humans via contaminated water before travelling unnoticed to Wuhan, where it was first detected.

In March, a Chinese diplomat claimed the virus may have originated in the United States. “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian wondered in a tweet.

The first known case of the novel coronavirus infection was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in November-December 2019, before the disease – later named COVID-19 – spread rapidly across the world. The pandemic, having spread to around 200 nations and territories, has not only led to a healthcare crisis but also wreaked a major economic havoc.

A team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has been tasked to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.

As of December 7, 6.6 crore COVID-19 cases were reported across the world. The global death toll stood at more than 15 lakh. China had reported around 86,600 infections, including 4,634 deaths. However, critics claim that the Chinese government has been covering up the true extent of the outbreak within its boundaries.

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first published: Dec 7, 2020 12:08 pm
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