THE Chinese government has taken umbrage at US President Joe Biden’s administration over the alleged “politicisation of the Covid-19 origin-tracing” studies.
So angry is Beijing at Washington that in a statement, the diplomatic language is overtaken by a raw sense of open unhappiness against Washington’s apparent insistence that Covid19 first broke out in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
Although a World Health Organization-China joint study group – made up of 34 experts from 10 countries including the US, UK, Japan and Australia – found no evidence to support the “Wuhan lab theory”, Washington remains openly sceptical about the findings.
President Biden has, following his rejection of the WHO-China joint study group’s findings in the SarsCoV-2 origin, instructed his intelligence services to conduct their own investigation and report to the Oval office within 90 days.
The US claims that some of the experts in the WHO-China study group “have conflict of interests due to previous co-operation with the Chinese side, and that their research work lacks transparency”. It would, however, not reveal their identity.
In response, Beijing hit back, saying: “The US government has once again regrettably sought to play up the issue of origin-tracing, resulting in its politicisation as well as a growing tendency toward ignoring science and even anti-science. This whole thing is turning into a political farce. Since the outbreak, the US has been bent on going down the road of politicisation, stigmatisation and ideological framing.”
Scientists around the world have called for calm, fearing geopolitical misgivings could be interfering in what is purely a scientific endeavour to get to the bottom of origin-tracing efforts.
The purpose of origin-tracing is to find out the origins of the virus, understand the mechanisms of its transmission, and forestall any future risks.
Concerned scientists include South Africa’s Professor Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa. As former chairperson of the Covid19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, he has been at the forefront of South Africa’s efforts to flatten the curve of Covid-19.
Speaking to the Chinese network Phoenix TV recently, Karim was quoted as saying: “It’s very important that we identify sources of new viruses because it gives us clues as to what we can expect in the future. For example, we understand that the first Sars-Cov coronavirus probably came from bats via civets into humans. We need to ensure that we collect the data to understand that for Sars-Cov-2.
“We must do that in a scientifically rigorous way. This is not a time for political posturing and finger-pointing. This is a time for cool heads to make sure we collect the scientific evidence. And we need all the authorities to co-operate.”
Zoologist Peter Daszak, a member of the WHO-China research team, says claims from some quarters in the US that coronavirus was caused by a spillover from a laboratory in Wuhan is factually inaccurate.
“The evidence says extremely unlikely,” he says, “and that was a unanimous opinion. It’s not worth continuing that pathway of thought.”
Professor Walter Ian Lipkin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in the US, believes strongly in collaborative work among the experts.
“The origin-tracing work needs to shift away from blame – it’s Chinese, or Malaysia or US, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Viruses don’t recognise borders. They are everywhere. We need to ensure that the very best minds in the world focus on this probe,” Lipkin says.
In May last year, the 73rd World Health Assembly adopted a resolution co-sponsored by more than 140 countries including China on Covid19 response, “calling on the WHO to co-operate with all parties to identify the zoonotic source of the virus, the possible role of intermediate hosts and the transmission routes”.
In March, the joint WHO-China study group of a team of experts released their findings into Covid-19 origin-tracing, which “looked into humans, animals and environment”.
All the scientists involved “unanimously agreed” that there were neither grounds nor a shred of evidence to link the Covid-19 origin to the Wuhan lab leak theory.
Immediately afterwards, Chinese authorities urged the WHO to “leave no stone unturned” and “seek answers across regions world-wide”.
Scientists believe Covid-19 origin-tracing is extremely complex since no conclusive scientific evidence has yet been produced to the effect that the pandemic started in China’s Wuhan laboratory.
The Chinese government statement read: “Origin-tracing is not just a major struggle of containment vs counter-containment, between the US and China. More importantly, it concerns the general direction of the international order after the pandemic. If the US and the West are allowed to have their way, the victim today is China, but it may be another country tomorrow. And moreover, the sovereignty and security of all countries will be put in jeopardy.”