Beijing has claimed the coronavirus may have surfaced outside of China and traveled to a wet market in Wuhan via frozen food exports from countries like Australia.
An article in Sunday's government-controlled newspaper Global Times said the idea that the virus was imported into the Huanan wet market last year "cannot be ruled out" – although it has been admitted that there is no evidence to support it gives.
Beijing has been pushing the theory since October when experts tracking an outbreak in Qingdao city found live coronavirus samples on packets of imported frozen cod.
Biejing has claimed the coronavirus may have emerged outside of China and traveled to a damp market in Wuhan (pictured) via frozen food imports from other countries, including Australia
Coronavirus cases were first reported in Wuhan in December before quickly spreading around the world, causing 1.5 million deaths. Pictured: temperature controls in Guangzhou in January
The Global Times also claimed that Australia had been "the pawn in US regional strategy for the past few years" and envisioned a cartoon of a kangaroo projecting the shadow of an eagle, America's national landmark
Western scientists say the theory is "highly speculative," believing it is much more likely that the disease was first transmitted from animals to people in the Wuhan area.
Coronavirus cases were first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, before quickly spreading around the world, causing 1.5 million deaths and ruining the economy.
The latest Global Times report comes after Beijing-Canberra relations hit rock bottom when China imposed a 212 percent tariff on Australian wine and taunted Australian soldiers with fake propaganda images pointing to allegations of war crimes.
In a separate article on Sunday, the same newspaper alleged Australia has been "the farmer in US regional strategy" in recent years, envisioning a cartoon of a kangaroo projecting the shadow of an eagle, America's national landmark.
The publication said cold chain products were imported into Wuhan 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 announced in October that laboratory tests confirmed Covid-19 can survive long on frozen packaging.
Yang Zhanqiu, a pathology expert at Wuhan University, told the Global Times the discovery made it possible that the virus was originally imported into China.
“The idea has never crossed our minds. But now it seems plausible that the virus was imported into Wuhan via imported cold chain products, ”he said.
The World Health Organization has said the virus "can survive long in refrigerated conditions" but examples are "rare and isolated".
The Global Times newspaper said frozen beef was exported to Wuhan from Australia before the coronavirus broke out there. Pictured: an Australian export ship
The Global Times said 40 cases of coronavirus have been found in cold chain imports since July, including imported beef.
The article quoted a local seller as saying that most of the frozen foods sold at the Huanan Seafood Market are imported from overseas.
& # 39; The products made in China are clean. I'm not sure about imported goods, ”said the seller.
The Global Times article also listed customs data showing that Hubei, the province of Wuhan, increased imports of frozen products in 2019 by 174 percent compared to the previous year.
However, the authors admitted that there was no evidence to support the theory that the virus began outside of China.
An anonymous expert was quoted as saying, "In theory, it is possible that coronaviruses from other countries caused the early outbreak in Wuhan, but there is no evidence."
China cites frozen packaging as a risk for the spread of Covid-19 and has stepped up inspections, despite the World Health Organization claiming that neither food nor packaging is a known route of transmission.
This isn't the first time Beijing has hypothesized that Covid-19 was brought to China on frozen parcels.
A meat seller wearing a face mask waits for customers in a market in Wuhan in April
The government-controlled People's Newspaper published an article on Nov. 25 entitled "COVID-19 did not start in central Wuhan, China, it may come through imported frozen food and packaging: experts."
Last week, The Global Times had pushed this theory as well, quoting Zeng Guang, the former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control, as saying, “It is very likely that the virus coexisted in multiple locations before it was discovered in Wuhan. & # 39;
The expert said the virus was identified in Wuhan thanks to the strength of China's Infectious Disease Prevention System, which was developed in response to the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press conference last month, "Although China was the first company to report cases, it doesn't necessarily mean the virus came from China."
"Origin tracing is an on-going process that can involve multiple countries and regions," he said.
In March, Lijian suggested that the US Army bring the virus to Wuhan.
The Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councilor Wang Yi, also said it was unclear whether the virus came from China.
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was still closed and boarded up after the outbreak a year ago
The Global Times and other Chinese media cited a paper published by Italy's National Cancer Institute, which found Covid-19 antibodies in samples from cancer patients taken there last October.
Another paper, published earlier this year, claimed to have found traces of SARS-Cov-2 in the Barcelona sewer system in samples taken in March 2019 – but both studies have sparked criticism in the West.
"Strong claims backed by weak evidence are widely reported without the necessary scrutiny and consideration of a larger body of available evidence," Francois Balloux, geneticist at University College London, said on Twitter.
He said even if the virus was present in Italy in September, that doesn't necessarily mean it originated there.
& # 39; Strong evidence is that by far the closest known virus to SARS-Cov-2 is circulating in bats in China. If you shift the timeline, you could still have essentially the same origin in East Asia and most likely in China which would then spread to other parts of the world, "he told Reuters.
"That wouldn't change the narrative about the origin."
People wearing masks walk through the Xihua farmers market in Guangzhou, China in May
Michael Ryan, director of the WHO health emergencies program, said last month the virus did not originate in China.very speculative & # 39 ;.
"From a public health perspective, it is clear that you start your investigations where the human cases first appeared," he said at a press conference in Geneva.
However, Peter Ben Embarek, WHO animal disease expert, appeared to open the door to possible origins other than Wuhan at a social media event in Geneva late last month.
He said it is important to investigate whether the market workers have "some similarities outside of Wuhan, in the country or in the provinces or in agricultural or hunting environments in southern China or perhaps even outside of China."
A WHO situation report in April found that the outbreak was due to a "single point introduction into the human population at the time the virus was first reported in humans in Wuhan, China, in December 2019".
Canberra-Beijing relations hit a new low on Monday when China's State Department spokesman sparked anger by tweeting this recreated picture of an excavator threatening to kill an Afghan child after Australian troops reportedly committed war crimes
Canberra-Beijing relations hit a new low last week when China's State Department spokesman sparked anger by tweeting a recreated picture of an excavator threatening to kill an Afghan child after Australian troops reportedly committed war crimes.
Mr Morrison called the mocked picture "repulsive" and requested an apology – but Beijing refused and on Tuesday the Communist Party newspaper The Global Times shared a new picture of the same artist attacking the prime minister.
Last month, Beijing blocked Australian exports, including coal and seafood, before imposing a 212 percent tariff on Australian wine, effectively banning the product.
Beijing's complaint dossier handed over to Nine Newspapers by the Chinese Embassy in Canberra last month alleged that Australia interfered in China's affairs in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and condemned Morrison for seeking an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19 .
The prime minister was among the first world leaders to propose an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year.
Other complaints included Australia's decision to ban Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from the country's 5G network and block foreign investment offers from Chinese companies.
China's 14 complaints with Australia
1. "Incessant willful interference in China's affairs in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan"
2. "Stand on the side with the US campaign against China and spread misinformation"
3. "Thinly veiled allegations against China for cyber attacks without evidence"
4. "An unfriendly or antagonistic media report on China"
5. Providing funding to the "Anti-China Think Tank" to disseminate false reports
6. "Foreign Interference Act"
7. "Foreign Investment Decisions"
8. "Prohibition of Huawei technologies and ZTE from the 5G network"
9. "Politicization and stigmatization of normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia"
10. Make statements "on the South China Sea to the United Nations"
11. "Outrageous condemnation of the ruling party of China by MPs and racist attacks against the Chinese or Asians"
12. "The early search and ruthless seizure of the homes and properties of Chinese journalists"
13. Calls for an independent investigation into Covid-19
14. "Legislation to Review Agreements with a Foreign Government"
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