“Our people have been egregiously harmed. China and the Chinese Communist Party must pay for what they did,” says Jeremy Alters, chief strategist and non-attorney representative for the Boca Raton-based Berman Law Group, the firm bringing the suit.

The new coronavirus, which has its closest genetic relative in a virus found in bats in southern China, was first detected in humans in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019 after clusters of pneumonia patients began appearing in area hospitals.

The Berman Group’s lawsuit alleges that China hid the deadliness of the pathogen from the rest of the world for crucial weeks after the outbreak began, letting the highly contagious virus spread unimpeded across the globe while taking measures to protect its own citizens.

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The lawsuit also puts forward the unproven speculation that the virus escaped from a Wuhan research laboratory.

Since filing the legal action, Alters claims that the suit has had viral growth. Tens of thousands of people and businesses have contacted the firm, asking to join.

“I’m looking at my email right now and there were 290 contacts with us between this morning and now, that’s how fast it’s growing,” Alters said.