President Donald Trump has flat-out rejected any suggestion that the US military was in any way involved in the spread of the new coronavirus.
“China was putting out information that was false that our military gave this to them. That was false. Rather than having an argument said I have to call it where it came from – it did come from China...Our military didn’t give it to anybody,” Trump said, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday.
Trump added that he has begun referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus" because he "didn't appreciate the fact that China was saying that our military gave it to them."
Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian pointed to congressional testimony by CDC director Robert Redford, who told lawmakers that there have been cases of deaths attributed to influenza in the US which were later identified as COVID-19. “When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected?...It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent!” Lijian urged.
The spokesman’s comments led the State Department to summon China’s ambassador to Washington, with US officials denying any involvement and accusing Beijing of spreading “outlandish rumours.”
China is the second country to float theories that COVID-19 may have been mad-made or spread deliberately. Last week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said there was evidence to suggest that the pandemic affecting his country may have been a “biological attack” carried out by an unknown actor.
Thought to have originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019, the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, has now spread to 150 countries and territories, with over 194,000 cases reported, 81,000 of them in China and over 5,700 in the US. A total of 7,864 people have died of complications related to the virus, while 80,800 others have made a complete recovery. Fears over the virus have also wreaked havoc on the global economy, with observers warning that the virus has put the world on the brink of recession.