Chinese State Media Suggests Covid-19 Pandemic Started by Frozen Meat Imported Into Wuhan

The Wuhan Hygiene Emergency Response Team drives a vehicle as they leave the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei Province on January 11, 2020.
The Wuhan Hygiene Emergency Response Team drives a vehicle as they leave the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei Province on January 11, 2020.
Photo: Getty (Getty Images)

Chinese state media outlet the Global Times released a new editorial on Sunday strongly suggesting the covid-19 pandemic, which started in the city of Wuhan, may have been caused by frozen meat imported from overseas. The suggestion is just the latest volley in a dispute over whether the Chinese government could have done more to stop the pandemic that has so far sickened at least 67.1 million people and killed more than 1.53 million worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Chinese state media has been reporting since at least June that coronavirus has been found on frozen meat and seafood imported from other countries. But this is the first time that any state media outlet has made the connection so explicit, while admitting that there’s no conclusive proof the virus was introduced to Wuhan in this way.

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“Although it might be too early to jump to conclusions, the possibility that the coronavirus was passed on from cold-chain products into Wuhan, or more specifically, to the Huanan wet market, where the sale of frozen products was once prevalent, cannot be ruled out,” the new Global Times editorial reads.

The Global Times spoke with a number of people in the area of the Huanan wet market who insist that wild animals were incredibly rare in the area but that frozen seafood was incredibly common. And some unnamed sources in Wuhan even blame Americans as the original source of the virus in 2019.

From the Global Times:

Now, almost every Wuhan local the Global Times reporters talked to tends to believe Wuhan was “wronged” by the outside world for being called the “origin of the coronavirus.”

It is quite common among those interviewed who believe that the virus was brought by the Americans during the Military World Games held in Wuhan in October 2019. And the frequent outbreaks originating from imported cold-chain products since June in many places in China also beg the question among Wuhan locals if the virus was transmitted to Wuhan in this way.

The hypothesis was also supported by experts. Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that in retrospect of the early outbreak in Wuhan, patients came mainly from the frozen seafood area.

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The editorial lists frozen food products from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Uruguay, among a host of others, as possible carriers of the coronavirus into China. The article also points to reports in Italy that predate the current pandemic, suggesting covid-19 may have originated in that country. The article itself points out that the evidence is flimsy, but clearly the idea is to sow doubt about the origin of the virus rather than reach a solid conclusion.

The Chinese government has come under immense pressure from some governments, most notably the U.S. and Australia, for not doing more to contain the virus when it was first detected in late December of 2019. Australia called for an international investigation into the origins of the virus, something that prompted fierce diplomatic backlash from Beijing.

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It’s still unclear what precisely caused the covid-19 pandemic to emerge from Wuhan in late 2019, and we may never have a definitive answer. Our best guess right now is still a wild animal in Wuhan who gave the coronavirus to a human. But you can bet that as the New Cold War rages, we can see plenty more articles like this from Chinese state media like the Global Times.

Remember when the Global Times tweeted out a video back in February purporting to show farts captured by thermal cameras being used to screen for the coronavirus? The Global Times may not be the best source of reliably information after all.

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Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

President Trump should not be calling it the Chinese virus. Just because it originated for China, doesn’t mean they created it. I’ve heard different reports of how it originated and don’t know if any are true: 1) virus accidentally released from a lab in China; 2) virus transmitted from bat to human or 3) leaked at an outside food market. Whatever the case is, China didn’t do a good of containing it result in it spreading all over the earth.