July 25, 2021

China is desperate to control the narrative of Covid-19’s origin – whatever the cost

International experts from the World Health Organisation trying to investigate the origins of the coronavirus in China, a year after it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan, continue to run into roadblocks.

The delay for the WHO mission – already plagued by politics and posturing – adds to persistent worries that China will whitewash and frustrate the investigation. Indeed, a two-person WHO team on a three-week mission last August, aimed at laying out plans for further study, sat through a 14-day quarantine upon arrival and never visited Wuhan.

This comes as Beijing engages in a relentless propaganda campaign to distract from its cover-up and rewrite the narrative – all aimed at claiming the coronavirus originated outside China. Officials have seeded a number of conspiracy theories, including blaming the US military for infecting China. The most recent theory flouted is to label imported frozen seafood as the culprit.

Foreign minister Wang Yi has gone so far as to claim the virus emerged in many countries, and that China was simply the first to spot it. “We raced to report the epidemic first,” he told state media.

Mr Wang’s comments are a far cry from the experiences of doctors, including the late Li Wenliang and Ai Fen, both of whom were reprimanded by Chinese authorities after discovering coronavirus infections in December 2018 and seeking to warn colleagues.

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