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Rumor Buster: 16 facts about China's fight against COVID-19

(People's Daily Online)    14:40, April 27, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, is raging around the world. At this critical moment, falsehoods, rumors and wild conspiracy theories about COVID-19 are circulating on social and traditional media. The world is striving to sift through the lies and obtain scientific facts, and China stands on the front lines fighting against this global “misinfodemic.”

Facts speak louder than words. The Chinese embassy in Germany hereby uses facts to dispel the 16 most common rumors about China amid the pandemic to bring the truth to the public.

Rumor No.1: Novel coronavirus was produced in a laboratory.

Facts: The available evidence indicates that the novel coronavirus originated through natural processes and was not manipulated or produced in a laboratory, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The scientific community has not yet specified an exact natural origin, but reported that the virus is possibly related to bats and pangolins.

In February, Christian Drosten, director of the Institute of Virology at Berlin's Charité hospital, and 26 other world famous scientists issued a joint statement in The Lancet, an authoritative academic publication in the medical field, strongly condemning conspiracy theories that suggest COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.

In a study published in Nature Medicine in mid-March, Kristian Andersen, an associate professor of microbiology from Sweden, and other authors concluded that the virus is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.

Gunnar Jeremias, head of the Interdisciplinary Research Group for the Analysis of Biological Risks, University of Hamburg, also rejected the conspiracy theory about the origin of the virus, claiming that it could not be produced even in the world's most advanced laboratory.

Rumor No.2: Novel coronavirus originated from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Facts: The WIV has nothing to do with the origin of the novel coronavirus.

The research facility is a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory that is able to deal with the world’s deadliest pathogens. About 30km from downtown Wuhan, it is impossible for a virus to leak from the P4 lab.

The virus was not leaked from the institute, said Yuan Zhiming, a researcher at the WIV, in an exclusive interview with China Global Television Network (CGTN) on April 18.

The idea that this virus escaped from a lab is just “pure baloney”, said Peter Daszak, disease ecologist and the president of EcoHelath Alliance, a nonprofit organisation based in New York, the US. He made the remarks in an interview with DemocracyNow.

“There was no cultured virus that’s anything related to SARS-CoV-2. So it is just not possible,” said Daszak, who has been working with the WIV for 15 years.

A conspiracy theory about Covid-19 escaping from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology is the Trump administration’s equivalent to the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, said the US correspondents Max Blumenthal and Ajit Singh in an article on

Rumor No.3: Novel coronavirus is a Chinese virus, as it originated in Wuhan.

Facts: According to the WHO, the official name of the virus is SARS-CoV-2. Wuhan is the first place that reported COVID-19 cases, but is not necessarily the source of the virus.

Historically, the place where a virus was first reported has not necessarily been where it originated. For example, the first AIDS cases were reported in the US, but the HIV may have originated in West Africa.

The organization issued best practices for the naming of new human infectious diseases in 2015, noting that disease names may not include geographic locations, cities, countries, people’s names or animal names.

Rumor No.4: China was aware of the outbreak as early as November 2019, but hid the information for 45 days.

Facts: Zhang Jixian, director of the respiratory and critical care medicine department of Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, reported the first three cases of pneumonia of unknown cause on Dec. 27 to local authorities in Wuhan, the first time that Chinese agencies received information about the virus.

The Chinese government issued its first urgent notification on Dec. 31.

Chinese scientists conducted retrospective studies of the first batch of patients infected with the virus in Wuhan, and published their research results in The Lancet on Jan. 24.

Rumor No.5: China’s hiding of information about the virus caused the global pandemic.

Facts: China promptly released epidemic information to the WHO, which can be confirmed by the timeline updated onto the WHO’s website. Initially, there had been no clear answer as to whether the virus could be transmitted from human to human. When it became clear that there was a phenomenon of human-to-human transmission for the novel coronavirus, the Chinese government took the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures against it.

China decided to lock down Wuhan on Jan. 23, when there were 571 confirmed cases in the country, and only 10 cases in the rest of world. China then locked down the whole of Hubei, a province with a population of 60 million, two days later. A month later, patients in China accounted for only 2.2 percent of the 78,811 confirmed cases around the world.

It was actually the Trump administration that downplayed the coronavirus threat until early March.

Rumor No.6: China arrested the “whistleblower” doctor to cover up the epidemic.

Facts: No Chinese doctors were arrested for warning the world about the pandemic, and the doctor that reported the epidemic was actually rewarded.

On Dec. 30, 2019, Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at the Central Hospital of Wuhan and a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), posted in one of his WeChat chat groups text messages including “seven SARS cases were confirmed at Huanan fruit and seafood market” and “…Please alert your families to take precautions.” The messages, along with other similar information, led to greater attention and discussions among the public.

On Jan. 3, 2020, a local police station at the Wuhan Public Security Bureau summoned Li for a discussion, issued a letter of reprimand to him and then sent him back to work.

Later, on Jan. 31, Li was diagnosed with novel coronavirus and died on Feb. 7. On the same day, the National Supervisory Commission formed a team to conduct an investigation into issues concerning Li. The investigation team held a press conference and released the results of the probe on March 19. On the same day, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau announced that the reprimand letter was inappropriate and decided to revoke it.

Li was not really a whistleblower amid the pneumonia outbreak, as he did not report it to the disease control and prevention center or health departments. In fact, it was Dr. Zhang Jixian who reported abnormal pneumonia cases to the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Dec. 27, 2019. The local government then conducted an investigation and issued the first announcement regarding the epidemic four days later. Zhang was also rewarded by the government.

Rumor No.7: China lied about its confirmed pneumonia cases and fatalities.

Facts: China calculated and reported its confirmed cases and fatalities based on facts.

By April 20, Wuhan had reported a total of 50,333 confirmed cases, with 3,869 fatalities. The death rate, which stood at 7.69 percent, was higher than the global average.

The relatively low number of confirmed cases and deaths can be attributed to the comprehensive and strict measures taken by the Chinese government, including locking down Wuhan. Science, one of the world’s top academic journals, estimated that these measures prevented over 700,000 cases of infection.

In addition, the central government of China sent over 42,000 medical workers to assist Hubei province after the outbreak began, and built two hospitals and 19 makeshift hospitals in Wuhan, which kept suspected cases in quarantine and cut the transmission chain.

Rumor No.8: China manipulated the WHO so that it won’t be blamed for the pandemic.

Facts: It is not possible for the WHO, an independent international organization with 194 member states, to be manipulated.

Within the WHO Headquarters Leadership Team, only one member is from China - Ren Minghui, who has served as WHO's Assistant Director-General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases since January 2016, and 11 members are from either the U.S., Europe or Canada.

Before it froze funding for the WHO, the U.S. was the largest contributor to the international organization, while China only ranked 6th, if voluntary donations are included.

The WHO expert team is made up of specialists in medicine and public health. The team members have rich experience in dealing with infectious diseases and use science, evidence and professional knowledge in their work.

Nearly all member states, not just China, give their backing to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, and it is groundless to say that he was elected because of China’s support.


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

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