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Coronavirus: Anger is growing at China over COVID-19 and its apparent cover-up attempt

We’ve long known about the dangers of a wild animal virus leaping the species gap and ravaging humans and so have the Chinese. 

They have been told repeatedly about the risks posed by their animal markets for decades.

In 2005, we filmed secretly while being offered pangolins, rare lizards and snakes in an endangered animal restaurant in southern China.

Year in, year out since, the Chinese have been warned by virologists that it was only a matter of time before a new lethal virus was unleashed threatening a global pandemic if the status quo was preserved.

And yet the restaurants and markets have remained open.


A previous version of this article and embedded video used images of animals for sale that we wrongly believed were from markets in China. The images were from markets outside China and were described incorrectly as a result of human error. We have now corrected this article.

Making matters worse, once that nightmare scenario came to pass, the Chinese appear to have tried to cover up their outbreak at first.

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Doctors were punished and persecuted for reporting it. Some of them have died.

Image: A Wuhan doctor hugs a medic after leaving work earlier this month

And according to reports this weekend, the British government has been told the Chinese may have lied about the extent of their own outbreak by a factor of 40.

Precious time was lost for other countries to prepare for the virus and when they did, it seems it was based on fudged figures and dodgy data.

The Chinese government appears to have indulged in a Kremlin-style disinformation campaign too.

Image: Xi Jinping wears a mask during an appearance in Wuhan

Its foreign minister tweeted about the possibility the “US military brought the virus to Wuhan”.

Its online mouthpiece, the Global Times, reported that Italy may have been to blame, producing no evidence whatsoever for the irresponsible claim.

China is facing a public relations catastrophe that is only likely to deepen.

Image: The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China

Western countries have their populations on lockdown, their economies frozen or in freefall, and the country where the virus most likely originated is suspected to have lied, covered up and spread misinformation about its role.

It has not helped either that some of the medical supplies sent by China to western countries to help battle the pandemic have been rejected as substandard and potentially dangerous to use.

In Britain, there is reportedly rising anger about the Chinese government’s conduct and increasing pressure for a wholesale review of relations with China.

Backbench anger may force a rethink on the government’s controversial decision to allow Chinese telephony company Huawei an, albeit limited, role in building the UK’s 5G network.

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In America, the Trump administration has wasted no time using China as a scapegoat for a crisis that threatens its re-election.

Donald Trump’s team may have botched its response but his officials are keen to labour the point when it comes to where COVID-19 is thought to have originated, calling it the Wuhan or China virus.

As the death toll mounts that is likely to remain the strategy in the run up to the election in November.

The world may need its two greatest powers working together to bring this pandemic under control. There is little sign of that happening for now.


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