An advertisement that shows a man eating a bat sandwich is being investigated by Australia’s advertising watchdog.
The ad from outdoor equipment firm Boating Camping Fishing store (BCF) has been viewed more than 250,000 times on YouTube.
In it, a man jokes that the pandemic was caused by someone eating a bat.
While early cases emerged from a live animal market in Wuhan, China, there has been no definitive proof it was how the virus originated and spread.
“Ad Standards has received a number of complaints about the BCF summer campaign commercial and is in the process of assessing these complaints to see if they raise an issue,” a spokesman for the Advertising Standards Bureau told the BBC.
A BCF spokesman had earlier told Australian media that the light-hearted marketing campaign recognises that many Australians will be staying home this summer and encourages them to explore their own backyard.
“Of course we understand the severity of the pandemic and spread of Covid-19 but it is clear that this ad is framed in the same spirit.”
BCF is no stranger to Australia’s advertising watchdog, making the list of most complained about ads in both 2016 and 2018.
“Over the years BCF has established a tradition of irreverent campaigns in the spirit of good-natured fun,” the spokesman added. “They will have their detractors and we recognise that.”
Relations between Australia and China deteriorated last year to their lowest point in decades, experts say.
The advert could see tensions becoming further strained.
Australia backed a global inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus in April, which a top Chinese diplomat alleged effectively singled out China.
Since then, Australian imports have been under the spotlight while Chinese students and tourists were warned against travelling to Australia citing fears of racism.
In November, China imposed taxes on Australian wine of up to 212%, saying these were temporary anti-dumping measures to stop subsidised imports of Australian wine.