China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said the coronavirus pandemic was likely caused by outbreaks outside the country, in an attempt to change the narrative about the infection’s origin.

“We raced against time and were the first country to report cases to the world,” Yi said during an interview with the state-run Xinhua news agency on January 1. “More and more research suggests that the pandemic was likely to have been caused by separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world.”

The virus is considered to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province. China had faced flak from the international community for allegedly covering up the transmission of the disease and for acting too slowly to stop its dispersion, according to Bloomberg.

In the interview, the foreign minister said that the country took “immediate actions” to carry out an epidemiological investigation, identify the pathogen and publicise key information including the genome sequencing of the virus. “All this sounded alarm bells across the world,” he said.

Yi said that China made an early contribution for developing a “strong global line of defense” against the virus. “We provided assistance to over 150 countries and 10 international organisations, sent 36 medical teams to 34 countries in need and provided funding to WHO [World Health Organization] and other relevant UN [United Nations] agencies,” he said. “We stood with other countries and people to help them prevail over the virus.”

The foreign minister also asserted that China was at the forefront of advocating international cooperation against Covid-19. “We have stood at the forefront of fighting misinformation, rebutting attempts of politicisation and stigmatisation,” Yi said. “We were determined to make sure that the objective narrative and collective memory of the battle against the pandemic would not be distorted by lies.”

Chinese state-run media and officials have pushed alternate theories that the coronvairus could have entered the country through imported frozen food, linked the infection to the United States military and cited research suggesting cases in the US and Italy pre-date those in Wuhan.

Although experts from the World Health Organization have been to China in the past year, they have not been given permission to enter Wuhan. A WHO spokesperson said in December that the global health body was hoping that the expert committee looking into the origin of the infection would be allowed into the city in January.

Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 8.50 crore people and killed over 18.42 lakh, according to the Johns Hopkins University. More than 4.75 crore people have recovered from the infection in the world.