Just days before the World Health Organisation (WHO) begins a scoping mission in Beijing to establish what caused the outbreak that has now killed half a million people, a top Chinese researcher has claimed they’re looking in the wrong country.
Wuhan has long been identified as the location where the novel coronavirus mutated from animals to humans, and the prevailing theory is that it came from a bat at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
But Wang Guangfa, a Peking University respiratory specialist who caught and recovered from Covid-19 earlier in the year, claims WHO should be investigating in Barcelona where researchers say they detected coronavirus in wastewater back in March 2019.
He says the alleged presence of the virus in a sample taken in the Catalan capital nine months before the Wuhan outbreak indicates it may have started in Spain, not China.
Zeng Guang, chief of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, added: “It does not matter which country the scientific identification work starts with, as long as it involves all related countries and is fairly conducted.”
Spain was badly hit by the pandemic earlier in the year, and has so far recorded 251,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 28,385 deaths.
The Chinese government has been accused of covering up the coronavirus in its early stages, preventing other countries from taking precautions to prevent widespread infection or from developing a treatment for Covid-19.
Senior MPs have criticised Beijing’s reaction to the public health crisis, and Donald Trump’ s top trade adviser Peter Navarro has alleged China deliberately allowed its people to spread the virus worldwide.
“What they deliberately did – and this is beyond reproach in terms of the facts – they deliberately allowed Chinese nationals to come into the US, Italy and everywhere in between, who were infected, while they were locking down their own transportation network,” he told MSNBC in a recent interview.
In retaliation, China has angrily accused the Trump administration of spreading baseless conspiracy theories, further increasing tensions between the two global superpowers.
In March this year, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hinted the US military may be responsible for bringing coronavirus to Wuhan.
Current evidence points to the virus originating in Wuhan at the end of last year, but some health experts — including an Oxford University professor — have said it may have started elsewhere some time earlier.