Opinion

The world should adopt scientific attitudes to Covid-19 origin-tracing


Published : 01 Sep 2021 09:53 PM | Updated : 01 Sep 2021 09:55 PM

In the face of the devastating onslaught of new variants of the COVID-19, the entire humanity is looking for an effective way out of the pandemic. Their hard-learned experiences lead mankind to resort to science to get rid of the deadly virus. But the United States (US) and a fistful of its allies are trying to mislead the world. They are sparing no efforts to prevent any sort of unity and solidarity among the nations to deal with the virus in a scientific and concerted way. On August 27, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of the US released a summary of the intelligence community assessment on COVID-19 origins, which is the latest example of America's above sinister intentions.

The US and its allies are slandering China disregarding all long-established scientific findings and convictions, and common sense. Their attitude has proven that they are determined to foil the scientific and rational approaches of origin-tracing of the virus at any cost. They don’t care about precious human lives. Their reckless moves compel the world conscience to believe that the US is trying to hide something fishy that happened in its territory by thwarting scientific origin-tracing of the virus, which is a must for saving humanity from the pandemic.

The US and its allies have set enormous precedents to achieve its parochial goals including absurdly entrusting its intelligence, well-known as an intelligence manufacturing agency, to look into the origin-tracing of the virus. The US has first succeeded in forcing the WHO Secretariat to succumb to their unjust pressure of announcing a proposal for the second phase research of origin-tracing in China. However, the US has ultimately been sidelined in this case as many countries have come up heavily on the WHO Secretariat for violating the regulations of the World Health Assembly. The countries have also called on the Secretariat to implement and remain stick to the recommendations of the first phase WHO report made after a thorough study of the origin-tracing in China. More precisely, China has also declined the pointless submission of the WHO Secretariat to the US pressure. China deserves this right and many nations have already rallied behind the country. 

However, I would here prefer telling solutions to highlight what the US and its allies are doing. In my eyes, the most important and timely measure the world must take is to deal with the virus in a scientific and concerted way. The international community must adopt scientific attitudes to the origin-tracing of COVID-19. They have to ignore every visible and invisible pressure from the US, which is crucial to save humanity from the fatal disease and prevent more pandemics in the future. The world has also to forge ahead global cooperation to defeat the virus keeping two important factors in mind, which are as follows.

The origin-tracing must be free of political manipulation

As the international research team visiting China on origin-tracing during January and February this year made a recommendation that future origin-tracing research should also be expanded to other locations outside China, the US started maneuvering to spoil the execution of the recommendation. The superpower has since intensified its efforts to politicise the origin-tracing and trying to shift blame to China for the origin of the virus, the US itself knows the matter is completely scientific though.

Analysts think the US seems to be afraid of origin-tracing research and frantic to deter independent international investigations into its labs that have been identified as such locations where serious origin-tracing of COVID-19 should be investigated. The WHO has particularly been urged to conduct an inquiry into the Fort Detrick lab, a site of the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases which has suddenly closed due to a leakage incident, just before the global outbreak of COVID-19. Reports suggest that the lab had stored various deadly viruses such as Ebola, smallpox, Sars, Mers, and the COVID-19 virus. Reports even suggest that anthrax bacterium had been stolen from the lab in the past. 

On April 16, 2020, The Times of Israel reported that US intelligence agencies alerted Israel to the COVID-19 virus outbreak in China already in November, at least one month before the first case of COVID-19 virus was reported in Wuhan. According to Channel 12 news of Israel, the US intelligence community became aware of the emerging disease in Wuhan in the second week of November and drew up a classified document. The television report said Israeli military officials later in November discussed the possibility of the spread of the virus to the region and how it would affect Israel and neighboring countries.

ABC News reported that US intelligence officials were warning about the virus in a report prepared in November by the American military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI). These reports suggest the US intelligence officials warned Israel of the pandemic at a time when the Fort Detrick lab in the US has suddenly been closed most probably due to a leakage incident. After surfacing these reports, the call for launching a thorough investigation and study into the US lab has gained ground all over the world. Many believe that the US is blaming China to avert the possible WHO investigation into its labs by playing with the trick of distraction.

Analysts are also of the view that, apart from avoiding the investigation, many US politicians politicise the origin-tracing to hide their failures in handling the pandemic. That’s why the world can see that the more serious turn the US domestic pandemic takes, the harder the US blames China as the origin; The more doubts are cast on the Fort Detrick Lab, the harder the US blames China as the origin; and the more anxious the US gets on China's successful fighting against the virus, the harder the US blames China as the origin of the virus. Therefore, the world should be aware of these reasons and perilous outcomes of the politicisation of the pandemic. The international community has to be vigilant and vocal for thwarting any type of plot of politicisation of the origin-tracing study.

The origin-tracing must uphold the spirit of science

Many even from the West are strongly critical of the US politicising the origin-tracing study. They are getting more outspoken against the Wuhan lab-leak theory. In an article, US journalist and researcher Danny Haiphong mentioned that the biased investigations into and politicisation of COVID-19 origins would lead only to more questions than answers. The Wuhan lab-leak theory is a highly politicised framework for pursuing answers into the origins of the virus.

A review article on the origin-tracing of the virus, co-authored by scientists from many countries, was recently published in the American journal cell. This is an important judgment made by professionals in this field on the origin-tracing issue based on existing scientific evidence. The article strongly refutes the ‘Wuhan laboratory leak’ conspiracy theories advocated by some American politicians and points out that cross-species transmission from animals to humans is the most likely source of the virus.

More than 20 mainstream scientists in the world co-authored this article, including Edward Holmes of the Mary Bashir Institute of Infectious Diseases and Biosafety, University of Sydney, Australia, Stephen Goldstein of the Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah, USA, Angela Rasmussen of the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Organization of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and David Robertson of the Virus Research Center of the University of Glasgow.

The article said that there is no epidemic in human history caused by the escape of a new type of virus, and no data is showing that before the outbreak, Wuhan Virus Research Institute or other laboratories in China were studying the virus or any virus that was enough to become the ancestor of the COVID-19. The article concluded that there is currently no evidence that the virus originated in the Wuhan laboratory, and there is no evidence that any early new cases have any connection with virus research in Wuhan. Compared with the frequent human-animal contact that often occurs in the wildlife trade, the hypothesis of Wuhan laboratory sources is extremely unlikely.

The world now reaches a crucial moment when new waves of pandemics caused by the mutation of the COVID-19 virus are sweeping through many countries. The very existence of humanity is at stake for the speedy infections of the deadly virus. As a result, the international community needs to stay beyond narrow politics and focus on cooperation and join hands to fight the pandemic through scientific means as the origin of the virus is a serious scientific issue. The origin-tracing needs very complex scientific research and a large amount of biological information and epidemiological evidence to converge into a mutually supporting evidence chain, which is time-consuming as well.

The origins can be traced only by promoting early case search, molecular epidemiology, animal (intermediate) host introduction, and other origin-tracing studies in multiple countries and regions around the world. The entire process has to be fully guided by scientific evidence and only can be done in a scientific way going beyond politics. As it is a serious and complex scientific issue, it should be carried out by scientists on a global scale, and countries should support this work with a scientific attitude.

Given the points, I have to conclude that the origin-tracing is a scientific task that should be free of political manipulation. The international community should have scientific attitudes and forge ahead global cooperation to run a thorough study, upholding the recommendations and conclusions of the first phase WHO report, in many possible locations around the world.

-    Md Enamul Hassan is a news editor and broadcast journalist at the China Media Group (CMG) in Beijing, China.