A news article with the title "Germany sends China £130 billion bill for coronavirus damages," went viral on social media. Express.co.uk published the article with a picture of Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.
The fact is that Germany never issued any such bill to China. Instead, Germany's leading newspaper Bild put out a report on April 15 that China owes a £130 billion bill for coronavirus damages.
The newspaper stated under the line, "What China owes us," along with an itemized invoice with details €24 billion for loss of tourism revenue, €7.2 billion for loss of German film industry, €1 million per hour in costs for Lufthansa, and €50 billion for loss of profits for German small businesses. The total went up to €149 billion. Of this, it billed £130 billion for China, blaming it for the spread of the coronavirus.
Bild is a tabloid–style newspaper in a broadsheet format. It has the sixteenth-largest circulation worldwide. But the newspaper is reportedly known for being notorious for its mix of gossip, inflammatory language, and sensationalism.
The Express.co.uk report too was based on this and after it was widely circulated on social media, netizens demanded that India too send an invoice for £300 billion to China for the losses the country has suffered due to the coronavirus.
A Twitter user with a verified account wrote: "Germany sends Invoice of $130 billion to Beijing for damages due #coronavirus pandemic. 1st Nation to do so. BRAVO@realDonaldTrump @narendramodi #WorldLeaders. World MUST unite, hold #China accountable for mass massacre. Take action against #WHO head."
The report in Express.co.uk had a clarification inside the article stating that the German government had not estimated the coronavirus damages but the 'Bild' had.
Reacting to the Bild invoice, the Chinese embassy in Berlin said the report stirs up nationalism, prejudice, xenophobia, and hostility to China.
The next day, (April 16), the Bild's Editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt penned an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping in the form of an editorial and questioned how the country could maintain tight restrictions on its political prisoners while allegedly being so lax with its safety standards at its virology lab in Wuhan.
He also accused China of keeping the world in the dark about the coronavirus spread. He wrote: "When you, your government and your scientists had known long ago that the coronavirus is transmitted from person to person, you left the world in the dark."