Health

Spotlight shines on coronavirus lies spread by China, Russia and Iran

Salaam Times and AFP

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Residents line up to pick up pork which was delivered to their quarantined compound in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on March 18, 2020. Undeniable scientific and anecdotal evidence proves the COVID-19 coronavirus originated from Wuhan, despite official Chinese attempts to change the narrative. [STR / AFP]

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage around the world, more international attention is focusing on the active disinformation campaigns being waged by the governments of China, Russia and Iran.

All three of these governments are actively promoting alternative narratives as to the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is well documented and supported by previous Chinese government statements that the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China.

The first cases of infections and deaths were in Wuhan, and before Chinese authorities were able to control the outbreak, the deadly virus spread across the world, upending daily life, sickening tens of thousands and killing over 10,000 to date.

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Citizens of Central Asian countries, who are stuck in Moscow after flights were stopped over the coronavirus pandemic, wait for flights to return home at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on March 24, 2020. [Alexander Nemenov/AFP]

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An Iranian health worker at a scanning station in Tehran in early March, taking temperatures of commuters. [ISNA]

Despite the overwhelming scientific and anecdotal evidence, the regimes of China, Russia and Iran are spreading disinformation about the origin of COVID-19, each for its own malign reasons.

China deflects blame

Beijing is actively attempting to deflect criticism of its role in the coronavirus pandemic by promoting conspiracy theories.

The spread of these malign conspiracy theories is not coming from Chinese citizens but from the highest echelons of the Chinese government.

After officials realised that the virus that originated in China was wreaking untold havoc around the world, the Chinese disinformation machine began working.

At the end of February, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian first began sowing doubt, saying, "Though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China."

On March 12, Zhao tweeted, "It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation."

Most recently, on March 22, Zhao changed his story again, suggesting on Twitter that the virus may have originated in the United States last September, saying US authorities should find out more information on "patient zero".

International concern is growing about the accuracy of the information coming from Chinese officials, who announced March 18 that China had no new local infection cases. Many observers doubt that China has had no new infections, considering the scope of COVID-19's spread in the country.

Beijing -- along with Moscow -- on March 23 blocked a United Nations Security Council proposed declaration on the outbreak.

The draft proposal highlights "growing concern about the unprecedented extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in the world, which may constitute a threat to international peace and security".

It calls for "full transparency" over the outbreak -- wording seen by some to allude to criticism of government secrecy in China.

Russia putting lives at risk

The Kremlin meanwhile is promoting disinformation about COVID-19 in order to worsen the crisis in the West by undermining people's trust in healthcare systems.

The European Union's Stratcom East task force, which tackles disinformation emanating from Russia, said earlier in March that it had identified almost 80 cases of disinformation about coronavirus since January 22.

The strategy is to pump out dozens of different, sometimes contradictory, narratives to sow confusion and fear.

Examples include the notion that coronavirus is a biological weapon deployed by China, the United States or the United Kingdom, that it originally broke out in the United States rather than in China, or that the virus is an instrument to impose totalitarian rule.

Pro-Kremlin sources are not authoring the theories themselves, say researchers working with the task force, but instead are picking up and amplifying conspiracy theories originating elsewhere, such as China and Iran.

There is also speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the coronavirus crisis, and the disinformation campaigns surrounding it, to push through constitutional changes that would extend his rule.

Prioritising ideology over the Iranian people

Tehran, for its part, is spreading conspiracy theories, most notably that the United States created the virus, in an attempt to deflect blame from how the Iranian regime has bungled its handling of the outbreak.

The US government on February 29 offered to help virus-stricken Iran.

But rather than accept the aid and help the Iranian people, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 22 rejected the offer, and spread another conspiracy theory that the offer of help was a cover for an effort to worsen the virus crisis in Iran.

"Khamenei rejected this offer because he works tirelessly to concoct conspiracy theories and prioritises ideology over the Iranian people," US Secretary of State Pompeo said March 23.

"The regime continues to lie to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, which are unfortunately far higher than the regime admits," he said.

International concern has been growing over the Iranian regime's lack of transparency in delivering accurate information to the public regarding numbers of COVID-19 patients and deaths.

Tehran on March 24 announced 122 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, raising the official death toll to 1,934 and total infections to 24,811.

Instead of taking responsibility and accepting help, Khamenei appears to be placing the country's hopes on faith.

He advised Iranians that "everyone should follow the instructions" of the authorities to fight the epidemic "so that Almighty God will put an end to this calamity for the Iranian people, for all Muslim nations and for all mankind".

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It was a fully planned war carried out in order to transfer world powers from the West to Asia without starting World War.

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Although there are problems in the pictures presented, but I should say you are very wrong. Many films and animations made in Hollywood point at this disease which refers back to the same conspiracy theory that many US money taker forecasters or let's say the program designers had predicted. Pictures are wrong The first picture of the people is more like a parking lot, than a butcher’s shop. Look, a store also exists in the line. To this side, there is a machine in front of the line and it looks more like a taxi rather than a butcher’s shop. The second picture is of a dead body with an empty oil can in the airport. The third picture is not known at all and looks like a person's head. Anyway, it is free to give your opinion, hope you wont' feel in trouble. Everyone is responsible for his opinion.

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It is a very good article. Thanks

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Why Chinese [people] eat dirty meat, they are humans, they are not [wild] animals, they are stupid as they eat every dirty thing.

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You made America just a white pigeon of peace. Whatever China, Russia and Iran do is a reality and you should help them.

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China is the main cause for spreading corona-virus to the world. If you go to the YouTube and watch the videos of Wuhan, you will see people in Wuhan going and purchasing the meat of dog, cat, donkey, snake, mouse and any other kinds of animals which live on the earth. And it is said that corona-virus also has spread from people eating unlawful meats in the same Wuhan city of China. Now some reports show that there is another new kind of virus spread in China and that virus has been found from eating the meat of mouse. The Chinese people eat every dirty thing. All countries of the world should put pressure on the Chinese government to ban eating unlawful meats. If they do not ban eating unlawful meats, the countries of the world should impose economic sanctions on China. Now Chinese government should help some poor countries, including Afghanistan in order to control the corona-virus.

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Well, if these viruses were to be transmitted by eating the meat of bats, pigs, etc., first, why hasn't the virus been transmitted during the last hundreds of years?
Second, eating these meats is not only common in China, but it is common in most countries of the world except in Muslim populated countries. And even people in the United States eat the meat of cat and so on. Why did the virus not transmit from those countries for the past centuries? If the virus was not made by human or better say by America, then where has the virus been in the past years, as it was discovered recently? Why should most viruses originate in China? Is it because of the meat or because of economic and political rivalry with the United States?

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