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China revives conspiracy theory that links coronavirus with US army lab Fort Detrick

Chinese authorities have given a fresh push to a conspiracy theory that links the origins of the novel coronavirus to a US army laboratory.

The country's state broadcaster told its millions of viewers today that 'something fishy' was going on at the Fort Detrick lab, reviving rumour that the contagion could have come from there.

The official report came three days after Beijing urged Washington to 'open the biological lab at Fort Detrick' and 'invite WHO experts to conduct origin-tracing in the United States' in an apparent attempt to point the source of the virus to America.

China's state broadcaster CCTV suggested that 'something fishy' was going on at the Fort Detrick lab in the United States during a news programme on Thursday (screenshot above)

China's Central Television Station claimed that the lab was branded as 'the darkest experiment centre of the US government' by American political news sites - without mentioning specific publications. A scientist is pictured working in the lab in the above photo from March 19, 2020

While the virus's exact origin remains unknown, the broad scientific consensus holds that it came from bats and jumped to humans through an intermediate host.

China is now rejecting the widely held assessment that Wuhan is the birthplace of the pandemic after daily infections dropped there but soared in Europe and the United States.

The Fort Detrick lab is known in full as the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and situated in Frederick, Maryland.

In a news report on Thursday morning, China's Central Television Station claimed that the lab was branded as 'the darkest experiment centre of the US government' by American political news sites - without mentioning specific publications.

A female anchor asked her audience rhetorically: 'Exactly what fishy businesses were going on [in the lab]?'

The state-run outlet listed various safety concerns related to the lab and stressed that the lab had been linked to alleged leaking and disappearances of lethal viruses.

The report came hot on the heels of relevant statements made by Hua Chunying, a spokesperson from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a press briefing on Monday.

Hua Chunying (pictured on Thursday), a spokesperson from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called on Washington to let WHO probe the virus's source in the United States on Monday

The Wuhan Institute of Virology (pictured) is also at the centre of a COVID conspiracy theory

Ms Hua accused the US of spreading 'conspiracy theories' and 'a bunch of lies' before calling on Washington to let the World Health Organization (WHO) probe the virus's source in the United States.

She said: 'I'd like to stress that if the United States truly respects facts, it should open the biological lab at Fort Detrick, give more transparency to issues like its 200-plus overseas bio-labs, invite WHO experts to conduct origin-tracing in the United States, and respond to the concerns from the international community with real actions.'

Ms Hua made the assertions in response to a US state department 'fact sheet' from last week which named new evidence linking the virus's origins to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The US document alleged that researchers at the Wuhan lab had fallen ill before the first known cases of COVID-19 in the city. But the state department has yet to provide data to support its allegations.

Ms Hua also branded the 'fact sheet' as part of the '"Last-day Madness" of "Mr Liar"', seemingly taking a swipe at former US President Donald Trump or his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Most of the first cases recorded in Wuhan at the beginning of the pandemic were associated with the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, seen in a picture taken on March 20, 2020

The novel coronavirus, scientifically known as SARS-CoV-2, first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

Most of the first cases recorded in Wuhan were associated with a seafood market, which, among others, sold live wild animals such as snakes, rats, beavers and foxes.

However, several conspiracy theories have appeared on the internet since the beginning of the pandemic.

They suggest that the virus could have been purposely created as a biological weapon or escaped from a lab - claims that have been 'strongly condemned' by scientists around the world. 

This is not the first time the Chinese state TV has called out America as a potential root of the coronavirus.

In April last year, one of its presenters claimed that the coronavirus originated from the US instead of China in an Arabic programme.

In a video series called 'China View', Ms V first quoted unidentified research and claimed that the coronavirus started spreading after the Wuhan Military World Games in October last year

The anchor, who calls herself 'Ms V', referred to several conspiracy theories in an opinion show on CGTN, the English arm of CCTV, to prove 'it is clear that the virus in China was transmitted from abroad'.

The Arabic-speaking reporter hinted that the contagion could have escaped from Fort Detrick or been brought into China during the Military World Games in Wuhan - a theory promoted by another of foreign ministry's spokespersons, Zhao Lijian.

Ms V suggested that that the 'CDC suddenly and completely shut down' the Fort Detrick Biological Weapons Laboratory after failing to 'fully prevent the loss of pathogens'.

The Maryland lab was, in fact, partially closed in July 2019 by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention over sanitation concerns, according to the press.

It had been operating under partial capacity since November that year and reopened in April 2020.

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