Forty per cent of people in England believe China may have purposely created the coronavirus as a bio-weapon to destroy the west, research suggests.
Psychologists quizzed 2,500 adults across the country about Covid-19 conspiracy theories, such as the bogus claim 5G is to blame for its rapid spread.
Only 55 per cent of the respondents disagreed with the claim that Beijing officials manufactured the lethal virus to attack the UK, US and Europe.
One in 20 people – or 5.5 per cent – agreed with the statement entirely, according to the study carried out by Oxford University experts.
China has repeatedly fended off accusations that the coronavirus was created in a lab in the city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began in December.
And World Health Organization officials have disputed the claims multiple times, saying there is no evidence the new coronavirus was created in a laboratory.
Beijing health authorities have insisted the virus almost certainly came from an animal in Huanan market in Wuhan.
They said it was ‘only a matter of time’ before they identified the crossover species behind transmission from bats to humans.
But US President Donald Trump fueled concerns this month when he suggested that the coronavirus was the result of a ‘horrible mistake’ made by China.
His fiery remarks came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was a ‘significant amount of evidence’ the disease had escaped.
US officials believe China intentionally concealed the severity of the pandemic – which has now killed more than 330,000 people – in early January and hoarded medical supplies.
The Oxford survey also revealed that more than a fifth of people in England believe the coronavirus that has killed tens of thousands of Britons is a hoax.
Twenty-one per cent of respondents claimed they thought the virus was fake, and 62 per cent admitted they thought the virus was man-made.
The poll also found almost three fifths of adults believe to some extent that the government is misleading the public about the cause of the virus.
While 79 per cent said they did not agree that coronavirus is caused by 5G and is a form of radiation poisoning transmitted through radio waves.
More than one fifth of those questioned said they do not agree the virus is naturally occurring, and 75 per cent did not agree that celebrities are being paid to say they have Covid-19.
The research – a representative online survey of 2,500 adults carried out between May 4-11 – was published in the journal Psychological Medicine.
It showed people who believe coronavirus conspiracies are less likely to comply with social-distancing guidelines or take up future vaccines.
The team wrote such ideas were also associated with general anti-vaxx sentiments and climate change conspiracy beliefs.
Lead researcher Professor Daniel Freeman said: ‘Those who believe in conspiracy theories are less likely to follow government guidance.
‘Those who believe in conspiracy theories also say that they are less likely to accept a vaccination, take a diagnostic test, or wear a face mask.’
It comes as police were forced to break up a street party of more than 100 people in a cramped cul-de-sac this week – as one reveller asked ‘Is Covid-19 even real?’
Shocking bodycam footage captured dozens of Britons as they flouted lockdown rules by mingling in a street in Birmingham to enjoy a barbecue and blaring music.
The gathering involved families and young children standing ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ despite nationwide restrictions on meetings.
In the clip, an officer is heard asking the crowd whether ‘everyone is enjoying themselves’, before he immediately tells partygoers they need to leave the area.
‘This is a gathering that cannot happen under the current Covid-19 legislation and restrictions,’ he said.
As he continues to ask revellers to return home, a woman asks ‘is Covid-19 real?’ before explaining she isn’t sure because she ‘hasn’t had it.’