Zimbabwe: Scientific Origin-Tracing of Coronavirus Critical

opinion

Guo Shaochun — As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, tracing the origin of the virus is important for preventing possible risks in the future.

Study of origins is a matter of science, which should be jointly conducted by scientists all over the world.

However, some countries with ulterior motives are trying to politicise the origin-tracing as a way to suppress and contain China's development, to pin the blame on China and get away with their own failure.

These moves will only undermine the global fight against the virus and bring more pain to the international community.

Origin-tracing of Covid-19 is a scientific issue, China has all along been open, transparent and aboveboard.

Origin-tracing of the virus is a complex scientific issue. Historically, initial cases have often been reported in places other than the origin of the virus.

For example, HIV infections were first reported in the United States, but may not have originated in the United States. And there is sufficient evidence that the so-called Spanish flu did not actually start in Spain either.

Covid-19 had broken out in various places around the world in the early days. A research published in the European Journal of Epidemiology suggests that Covid-19 infection may have occurred in Europe in November 2019.

According to a US CDC report, Covid-19 may have existed in the US in December 2019. The chief epidemiologist at Sweden's Public Health Agency said that it's likely that there were individual cases of coronavirus in Sweden in November 2019.

According to a study released by the National Cancer Institute (INT) in Milan, the coronavirus may have been circulating in Italy since the summer of 2019.

Obviously, all above was much earlier than the first case discovered in China.

Recently, Professor Ju Liya, a doctor of immunology at the Pasteur Institute in France said in an exclusive interview that judging from the overall situation of the pandemic, it is an obvious fact that Covid-19 has multiple origins and broke out in multiple places.

China has been working closely with WHO in supporting virus origin tracing of Covid-19, and has always been a firm supporter of WHO and multilateralism.

Since July 2020, the WHO international expert team has twice conducted origin-tracing of Covid-19 studies in China, and has had numerous online and email exchanges with their Chinese counterparts until today.

WHO and China jointly released the report on the WHO-convened global study of origins of SARS-CoV-2: China part based on the large amount of joint research carried out earnestly.

The report has made the conclusion that has been widely recognised by the international community and science community on the possible pathways of Covid-19, showing that there have been scientific conclusions reached regarding the Covid-19 origin tracing study in China.

For some of the follow-up and further research recommendations made in the phase one joint report, China is also actively implementing them and will conduct international exchanges under pure science-driven studies.

Origin-tracing of Covid-19 requires cooperation of scientists worldwide. The international community should respect the fact that the coronavirus broke out in multiple places in the world, cooperate with the WHO on the origin studies in an open, transparent and scientific manner as China did, and make due contribution to promoting global solidarity against the virus and saving more lives.

2. It is immoral to politicise study of origins-tracing and will only jeopardise international anti-pandemic cooperation, and cost more lives.

Politicised origin-tracing is definitely seeking for political purpose. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we've seen some US politicians and media outlets labelling the virus, seeking stigmatisation, spreading unfounded "lab leak" hypothesis, wantonly attacking and smearing the joint report on the study of origins by the China-WHO team of experts, even before the report publishing.

The US president even drew on the intelligence apparatus to launch "investigations" on virus origin.

Unfortunately, the US has yet to respond to the reports of lots of Covid-19 cases earlier than had initially been reported by other countries. The National Institutes of Health of the US found evidence of Covid-19 infections which was present in five states in the US as far back as December 2019.

In Florida, 171 patients had coronavirus symptoms before any cases were announced to the public. The mayor of Belleville, New Jersey was sick with the virus in November 2019, over two months earlier than the first confirmed case in the US.

Patients of the EVALI outbreak in July 2019 in several states in the US have symptoms highly similar to that of Covid-19.

Donated blood check-ups in nine US states found that 106 blood samples, ranging from December 13, 2019 to January 17, 2020, tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

Such moves to attack China time and again for no other than three purposes.

The first is to hold back China's development, like what the US did through political, economic and social means in recent years, and also like what the US did to other countries with different political and social systems.

The second is to shift the blame for its poor pandemic response.

To date, the number of infections and deaths in the US has exceeded 33,9 million and 607 000 respectively.

As a country equipped with the world's most advanced medical resources and technology, the US needs to find a way to shift the blame, and China seems to be a suitable target.

The third is to divert public attention on the US bio laboratories. The US has more than 200 bio labs runs all around the world, but it refuses to provide a responsible account of the real situation of these labs and also refuse to adopt a scientific and transparent attitude to invite WHO experts for origin-tracing study in the US and on its Fort Detrick lab and the over 200 bio labs of the US overseas.

The US has all along clammed up and turned a deaf ear to the doubts and concerns of media and the international public, it is very dangerous.

Such moves driven by politicisation are deviating further away from the purpose of the study of origins. They have hamstrung the Covid-19 response in the US and inflicted heavy losses on the American people, and are having an increasingly negative impact on global anti-virus cooperation.

Recently, the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic has broken out in many parts of the world, which has seriously affected the development of all countries, including Zimbabwe, and posed a serious threat to the lives and health of people all over the world.

The international community should strengthen joint cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, and also we should fight together against the spread of the political virus. China supports international efforts on origin-tracing and fighting against Covid-19 .

China always attaches great importance to the issue of origin-tracing and will continue to advance its own research in this respect.

At the same time, as a leading country in cooperation with WHO on origins study, China will continue to actively participate in the next phase of global origin-tracing cooperation.

The WHO should uphold the spirit of science, professionalism and objectivity, work with the international community to safeguard the scientific nature and seriousness of the origin study, resist the retrogressive trend of politicising the issue of origin-tracing, and jointly maintain a sound atmosphere for global anti-pandemic cooperation.

China's position is supported by many scientists in the international community who uphold science, reason and objectivity.

Lots of member states of WHO including Zimbabwe have also stood out and opposed the politicisation and stigmatisation of origin-tracing, calling upon conducting the 2nd phase of origin-tracing in a scientific and transparent way without any political motives and influences.

The second phase of origin-tracing should be carried forward on the solid basis of the WHO-convened joint study in China.

What has already been carried out in this study, especially those with clear conclusions, should not be studied again.

The study should be totally evidence-based and science-driven so that it will be more likely to find the virus origin with practical and scientific international cooperation.

The research should give priority to new scientific evidence found, add the part of conducting researches on searching early cases in multiple countries and regions, animal (intermediate) host introduction, cold chain introduction, etc.

The purpose of origin-tracing is to improve human's understanding of the virus and better guard against infectious diseases in the future.

The relevant countries should immediately invite WHO experts in for scientific studies to address international concerns.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has provided substantial support for international anti-pandemic cooperation, especially to the African countries including Zimbabwe.

Notwithstanding the limited production capacity and enormous demand at home, China has provided free vaccines to more than 80 developing countries and exported vaccines to 43 countries.

China has availed US$2 billion as assistance for COVID-19 response and social economic recovery in developing countries. China has sent medical supplies to more than 150 countries and 13 international organisations, providing more than 300 billion masks, 3,7 billion protective gears, 4,8 billion testing kits and other anti-pandemic supplies to more than 200 countries and regions, and over 600 million doses of vaccines to other countries.

China has established a cooperation mechanism that paired up Chinese hospitals with 41 African hospitals and has officially started the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters at the end of last year.

But this is not the end.

China will continue helping Zimbabwe and other developing countries build up their capacity to fight the pandemic and recover their economies.

Covid-19 is the common enemy of mankind, but what's more horrible than the virus is the political virus. The international community should adopt a united stance against political virus and their spreaders so that the world could embrace an early victory over Covid-19.

· Guo Shaochun is the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the Republic of Zimbabwe

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