China Claims Australia Is Responsible for COVID-19 Pandemic
Chinese Communist Party alleges original outbreak started by Australian frozen food
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has claimed that Australia is responsible for the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to reports.
The ruling CCP alleges that the initial outbreak in Wuhan was triggered by Australian frozen food that was imported to China.
The allegations were made in an article by the government-controlled Global Times newspaper on Sunday.
The report argues that the idea that the coronavirus originated from Australia last year "cannot be ruled out" - although it admitted it cannot provide any supporting evidence.
Beijing has been pushing the theory since October when experts tracing an outbreak in Qingdao city found living coronavirus samples on packets of imported frozen cod.
Western scientists insist that the theory is "highly speculative" and believe it is much more likely that the disease passed from bats to another animal species and then to humans in Wuhan.
Coronavirus cases were first reported in the Chinese city in December last year before the disease spread rapidly around the world, causing 1.5million deaths and wrecking economies.
The Global Times report comes amid escalating political and economic tension between Australia and China after Beijing slapped a 212 percent tariff on Aussie wine and shared doctored propaganda images referencing war crimes allegations against Australian troops in Afghanistan.
In a separate article on Sunday, the same newspaper claimed Australia - a close US ally - has been "the pawn in the US regional strategy in the recent years" and pictured a cartoon of a kangaroo projecting the shadow of an eagle, the national emblem of America.
Attempting to cast doubt on the idea that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, The Global Times said cold-chain products were imported into the city from several countries including "meat products from Brazil and Germany... Australian steak, Chilean cherries, and Ecuadorian seafood."
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in October that lab tests confirmed COVID-19 could survive for a long time on frozen food packaging.
Yang Zhanqiu, a pathology expert at Wuhan University, told The Global Times the discovery made it possible that the virus was initially imported into China.
"The idea never crossed our minds before. But now it seems plausible that the virus may have been imported to Wuhan via imported cold-chain products," he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the virus can "survive a long time under cold storage conditions" but examples are "rare and isolated."
The Global Times said that since July there have been 40 cases of coronavirus being found on cold-chain imports, including on imported beef.
The article quoted a local unidentified seller saying most frozen food sold at Huanan Seafood Market is imported from abroad.
"The products produced in China are clean," the "seller" allegedly told the outlet.
"I am not sure about imported goods."
The article also listed customs data which showed that Hubei, the province that contains Wuhan, had a 174 percent increase in frozen product imports in 2019 compared with the previous year.
However, the authors admitted there was no evidence to support the theory that the virus started outside China.
The outlet quoted an anonymous "expert" as saying: "Theoretically, it is possible that coronavirus from other countries caused the early outbreak in Wuhan, but we lack evidence."
China cites frozen food packaging as a COVID-19 risk and has stepped up inspections even though the World Health Organization says neither food nor packaging is a known transmission route.