The Chinese government are now trying to pin the blame of the Coronavirus outbreak on Australia, claiming that the deadly pandemic “might” have originated from frozen food exports outside of China.
An article in the state-controlled Global Times newspaper on Sunday said the idea the virus was imported via another country into Wuhan last year ‘cannot be ruled out.’
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Beijing has been desperately pushing the new theory since October when experts tracing an outbreak in Quindao city found living coronavirus samples on packets of imported frozen cod.
Scientists around the world say the theory is “highly speculative” and believe it is much more plausible that the virus passed from bats to another animal species and then to humans in Wuhan.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: Coronavirus cases were first reported in the Chinese city in December last year before the disease spread rapidly around the world, causing 1.5million deaths and wrecking economies.
The Global Times report comes amid escalating political and economic tension between Australia and China after Beijing slapped a 212 per cent tariff on Aussie wine and shared doctored propaganda images referencing war crimes allegations against Australian troops in Afghanistan.
In a separate article on Sunday, the same newspaper claimed Australia – a close US ally – has been ‘the pawn in the US regional strategy in the recent years’ and pictured a cartoon of a kangaroo projecting the shadow of an eagle, the national emblem of America.
Attempting to cast doubt on the idea that Covid-19 originated in Wuhan, The Global Times said cold-chain products were imported into the city from several countries including ‘meat products from Brazil and Germany… Australian steak, Chilean cherries and Ecuadorian seafood.’
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in October that lab tests confirmed Covid-19 could survive for a long time on frozen food packaging.
Yang Zhanqiu, a pathology expert at Wuhan University, told the Global Times the discovery made it possible that the virus was initially imported into China.
‘The idea never crossed our minds before. But now it seems plausible that the virus may have been imported to Wuhan via imported cold-chain products,’ he said.
The World Health Organisation has said the virus can ‘survive a long time under cold storage conditions’ but examples are ‘rare and isolated.’
The Global Times said that since July there have been 40 cases of coronavirus being found on cold-chain imports, including on imported beef.
The article quoted a local seller saying most frozen food sold at Huanan Seafood Market is imported from abroad.
‘The products produced in China are clean. I am not sure about imported goods,’ the seller said.
The article also listed customs data which showed that Hubei, the province that contains Wuhan, had a 174 per cent increase in frozen product imports in 2019 compared with the previous year.
However, the authors admitted there was no evidence to support the theory that the virus started outside China.
An anonymous expert was quoted as saying: ‘Theoretically, it is possible that coronavirus from other countries caused the early outbreak in Wuhan, but we lack evidence.’
China cites frozen food packaging as a Covid-19 risk and has stepped up inspections even though the World Health Organization says neither food nor packaging is a known transmission route.
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