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Japanese TV report sparks speculations in China that COVID-19 may have originated in US

(Global Times)    11:31, February 23, 2020

Photo: Xinhua

A report from a Japanese TV station that suspected some of the 14,000 Americans died of influenza may have unknowningly contracted the coronavirus has gone viral on Chinese social media, stoking fears and speculations in China that the novel coronavirus may have originated in the US.

The report, by TV Asahi Corporation of Japan, suggested that the US government may have failed to grasp how rampant the virus have gone on the US soil.

On February 14, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they will begin to test individuals with influenza-like-illness for the novel coronavirus at public health labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and New York City.

However, it is unknown whether Americans who have already died of the influenza had contracted the coronavirus, as reported by TV Asahi.

The story sparked various conspiracy theories on Chinese cyberspace.

The Military World Games were held in Wuhan in October. "Perhaps the US delegates brought the coronavirus to Wuhan, and some mutation occurred to the virus, making it more deadly and contagious, and causing a widespread outbreak this year," a user posted on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

Shen Yi, an international relations professor at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, noted that global virologists are working to track the origin of the virus, including the intelligence agencies. Netizens are encouraged to actively partake in discussions, but preferrably in a rational fashion.

"The symptoms and the contagiosity of the COVID-19 are evident to all. It is impossible to conceal the origins of the disease," Shen said, urging the public to rely more on facts.

The epidemic is a major test for many systems and media should report in a clear and accurate manner. Asahi's report is actually using ambiguous Japanese expressions to lead readers to think that the COVID-19 is more serious than it appeared to be in the US, he added.

US officials have so far confirmed 35 cases of the novel coronavirus in the country.

Media reported the US CDC has been working with the healthcare sector to heighten preparedness before the virus "take(s) a foothold in the US."

Reuters quoted US health officials on Friday as saying, they are preparing for the possibility of the spread of the new coronavirus through US communities that would force closures of schools and businesses.

The US is concerned that a larger spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus could overwhelm emergency rooms, and cause supply shortages of some crucial medical supplies, during an already busy time dealing with seasonal flu that has resulted in the illness of between 9 to 45 million annually, since 2010. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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