SHANGHAI - As global COVID-19 infections surge, China is pushing a narrative via state media that the virus existed abroad before it was discovered late last year in the central city of Wuhan, where it was traced to a seafood market. Chinese state media have cited the presence of the coronavirus on imported frozen food packaging, as well as scientific papers claiming that the coronavirus was circulating in Europe earlier than previously believed, as evidence that China may not have been its origin. "#COVID19 did not start in central China's Wuhan but may come through imported frozen food and packaging: experts," said a Wednesday Facebook post by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily. Unlike other countries, China cites frozen food packaging as a risk of spreading COVID-19. It has stepped up inspections and made a spate of announcements that the virus was found on chilled food packaging, prompting rejections of goods and complaints from exporters, even though the World Health Organization says neither food nor packaging is a known transmission route. The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the People's Daily, has also promoted the theory that COVID-19 originated outside China. "When and where did the virus start circulating? Tracing the virus cannot answer all questions, but it is very likely that the virus had co-existed in multiple places before being spotted in Wuhan," Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist of China's Center for Disease Control, said in Tuesday's Global Times. The fact that it was detected first in Wuhan was a testament to the strength of China's infectious disease prevention system, which was developed in response to the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003, Zeng also said last week. SEWAGE SAMPLES Speculation and conspiracy theories over the virus's origins have abounded, fuelled by China's early suppression of information and its resistance to providing access to overseas experts. In March, a foreign ministry spokesman suggested that the U.S. army brought the virus to Wuhan. The Chinese government,
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