About a year after the first Covid-19 cases were identified in Wuhan, China is increasingly attempting to cast doubt on the origins of the virus and putting the blame on other nations, for instance, Russia.
Chinese state media are more actively reporting about the coronavirus being found on imported frozen produce, which isn't considered a serious risk of infection by other countries, as well as Covid-19 cases that were identified outside of China before December 2019. Several Chinese media outlets are reporting that Covid-19 entered China via Russian rail cargos that arrive in China daily.
The official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party People's Daily posted on its Facebook page that "the available evidence suggests that the virus didn't emerge from the Chinese city of Wuhan".
"Wuhan was where the coronavirus was first identified, but it's not the place of origin of the virus," expressed former lead epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Zeng Guang. When a representative of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked about reports by state media that the virus emerged outside of China, he replied only that it's crucial to differentiate between where the virus was first identified and where it jumped the species barrier and started infecting people.
"Although China was the first to report cases, it doesn't mean that the virus originated in China," Zhao Lijian said during a press briefing. "Tracking the origins of the virus is a continuous process in which other countries and regions can also participate."
Chinese scientists have even submitted a piece to be published in the medical journal Lancet arguing that "Wuhan is not where the first human-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2 took place", instead saying that the first case may have happened on the "Indian subcontinent".
Western scientists, however, believe that it's unlikely that the virus originated outside of China. WHO expert Michael Ryan noted that it would be "very speculative" to state that the virus didn't originate in China. "From a public health perspective, it's clear that investigations must begin where the first cases of the virus were identified," Ryan said at a press briefing in Geneva.
Although traces of coronavirus were indeed found on frozen produce, scientists believe that this poses a very low risk of infection because the disease is mainly transmitted via droplets.
The Guardian wrote that as the damage caused by the pandemic increases, Beijing wants to protect its reputation. More than 60 million people globally have been infected with Covid-19 and 1.5 million have died. According to experts, Chinese highest officials know that the virus originated in China, and the recent reports about a different place of origin can be considered a propaganda campaign.
This would be more believable if China would support an independent investigation, but Chinese authorities have numerous times obstructed such an investigation. For instance, WHO representatives who travelled to Wuhan in early 2021 weren't allowed to visit the food market that was linked to the outbreak of Covid-19.
It is vitally important to understand the origins of Covid-19 in order to prevent future pandemics. Sadly, Beijing is currently more concerned about the issue of who should be blamed for the pandemic, not where it came from.