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Beijing feels the heat over coronavirus misinformation

Beijing feels the heat over coronavirus misinformation

Countries are mounting pressure on China to come clean about the origins of the novel coronavirus. Over the last four months, since the unknown virus originated in Wuhan, Beijing has sought to downplay the deadly infection and blame the US for spreading it. It is also believed to be under-reporting numbers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has asked Beijing to reveal more information about the early days of the outbreak. She told reporters: “I believe the more transparent China is about the origin story of the virus, the better it is for everyone in the world in order to learn from it.”

This is a sentiment echoed a day earlier by Australia, which sought an international investigation into the spread of the pandemic.

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Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne minced no words when she told ABC Television: “The issues around the coronavirus are issues for independent review, and I think that it is important that we do that. In fact, Australia will absolutely insist on that.”

More than 100 international politicians and policy experts have signed a letter saying that covering up the coronavirus pandemic marks <a href="https://globalnews.ca/news/6814940/china-coronavirus-open-letter/"><strong>China‘s “Chernobyl moment.”</strong></a>

Mounting global concern proves that thought leaders remain doubtful of Beijing over its opacity regarding the origins and spread of the coronavirus.

Even the French have been critical. Talking about the pandemic, President Emmanuel Macron said: "There are clearly things that have happened that we don't know about."

The French have reasons to be miffed after the Chinese Embassy in Paris launched a high-profile campaign, showing how laggardly the Europeans were in handling the infection as compared to the efficient Chinese. They even wrote a blog, saying that French nurses are leaving the patients to die of hunger and disease, which prompted the French Foreign Ministry to summon the ambassador.

But nobody has been as strident in condemning China as US President Donald Trump has been.

After dismissing the virus lightly in its early days, Trump had to face the reality of New York hospitals <a href="https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/new-york-covid-19-deaths-morgues-overflow-death-toll-12616836"><strong>overflowing with dead bodies</strong></a>. The US has reported 792,938 cases of infection and 42,518 deaths.

It wants to send a team of experts to China to investigate the virus. Trump told the White House news conference this Sunday: "We spoke to them a long time ago about going in. We want to go in. We want to see what's going on. And we weren't exactly invited, I can tell you that."

The US is probing whether the deadly virus "escaped" from the Wuhan Institute of Virology—the secretive institute under global scrutiny.

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A Fox News investigation has said that the virus may have been accidentally leaked by an intern at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. A similar claim was made by a Nobel-winning French scientist Luc Montagnier. He told French CNews that the virus was an attempt by Chinese scientists in a Wuhan lab to develop a vaccine against AIDS and it leaked from there.

The Washington Post and Fox News have published investigations that there is suspicion the virus slipped out of a sensitive laboratory in Wuhan that studied bats.

Even African ambassadors lodged a complaint with China over the “stigmatization and discrimination” of their nationals. They wrote to the Chinese Foreign Minister pointing out discrimination against Africans. Several nations individually shared their concerns that Africans in Guangzhou are being forced into quarantine or are sleeping in streets.

China remains under a cloud right from the beginning of the outbreak. Initially it hid that Wuhan had a highly contagious virus.

Then it <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/china-expels-foreign-journalists-coronavirus-deaths-climb-200220003102995.html"><strong>expelled foreign journalists</strong> </a>for reporting over mounting deaths. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: "The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and smear China with malicious attacks."

As recently as last week, China updated the death toll in Wuhan twice, fuelling further suspicion.

In fact, the communist country has been playing aggressor and victim at the same time. In March, China alleged that that the US Army brought the virus to Wuhan, while in April it said that China too is a victim of Covid-19 like the rest of the world.

China's duplicity over coronavirus has left the world dealing with broken economies, vulnerable populations and seething helplessness..