21:39 GMT24 February 2021
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    The latest data by Worldometer shows that there are more than 97 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 2 million deaths as a result. In the US alone, there are more than 24 million cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 414,000 related deaths.

    According to a recent report by the Guardian, there have been revised attempts by the Chinese authorities to shift the narrative around the origin of COVID-19, with Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, insinuating that the virus may have originated at a US Army lab.

    “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 [World Health Organization] experts to conduct origin-tracing in the United States, and respond to the concerns from the international community with real actions,” Hua said.

    Hua’s comments are in response to a fact sheet released by the US State Department last week stating that there is new evidence that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became infected with the virus before the first known cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Chinese city. 

    “The virus could have emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, spreading in a pattern consistent with a natural epidemic,” the State Department reported last week, according to AP. 

    “Alternatively, a laboratory accident could resemble a natural outbreak if the initial exposure included only a few individuals and was compounded by asymptomatic infection,” the State Department release adds.

    In his statement, Hua references Fort Detrick, the US Army Medical Command installation in Frederick, Maryland. Fort Detrick was the center of a US biological weapons program from 1943 to 1969.

    On the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, the Chinese hashtag for “biological laboratory in US Fort Detrick” has been viewed more than 900 million times, the Guardian reported. 

    Many of the comments on the platform are promulgating conspiracy theories that the US lab could be the source of COVID-19.

    China has been under scrutiny in recent weeks after blocking a team of WHO experts from entering the country to investigate COVID-19's origins.

    "Today, we learned that Chinese officials have not yet finalized the necessary permissions for the team's arrival in China,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month, Sky News reported.

    "I'm very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials," he added.

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