Twitter has tagged a Chinese government official’s tweet that suggests the new coronavirus has been brought to the Asian county by the US military.
The social media platform posted a blue exclamation mark under the tweet — posted by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian — with a comment calling on its readers to check the facts about the spread of the contagious disease.
“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” Zhao wrote in March.
The virus, which was first reported in the Chinese central city of Wuhan late last year, quickly spread to the rest of the world and became a new source of tension between Washington and Beijing.
US President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly blamed China for the virus pandemic, alleging that the virus originated in a high-security laboratory based in the Chinese city of Wuhan, but Twitter has never flagged their claims.
The US has already recorded over 101,000 deaths related to the epidemic and registered more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of the viral infection.Trump claims that without his administration’s actions, the death toll would be 25 times higher.
A report, however, said last week that thousands of lives could have been saved if his administration had implemented lockdowns and social distancing measures just two weeks earlier.
The vast majority of the virus deaths — about 54,000 — would have been avoided if the US had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started self-quarantine, according to data from Columbia University disease modelers, which was first reported by The New York Times.
Twitter also fact-checked Trump for the first time on Tuesday over his claims about mail-in ballots, under what it says was an extension of a “misleading information policy.”
In response Trump threatened to close down Twitter.