On 23 January, the US ordered the departure of all non-emergency US personnel and their family members from the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, where the virus originated. Less than a week later, the US allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and relatives of US government employees from China. On 30 January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency over the new virus.
Following this, the US ordered the departure of all US personnel family members under the age of 21 in China.
Chinese agents stoked panic in the US in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak by spreading fake warnings, according to a report published in the New York Times.
The report was based on interviews with six American officials who denied to reveal their identity. The body that represents some of the world’s largest cruise ship operators, the Cruise Lines International Association, announced on Monday that passengers and crew members who had recently traveled to China would not be allowed to board vessels.
Stop hoarding. I can’t be blunter about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behavior in response to this crisis.
The study states that operatives helped spread messages claiming Trump administration would deploy national guard to enforce the nationwide quarantine. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, a common message circulated in the early phase of the pandemic was: ”they will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters. He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.
Since the disinformation appeared as text messages on the mobile phones of several Americans, the Department issued an announcement on Twitter declaring that they were all ”fake”.
However, China has denied broader claims that it is involved in misinformation campaigns.
The tactic was especially alarming to intelligence officials because several of them said they had not seen before.
The findings appear to represent an escalation by foreign powers like Russia and China is trying to capitalize on the panic surrounding the pandemic to sow confusion in the US, and intelligence agencies are taking a new look at how operatives may have exploited the situation.