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The Study of Origins of Coronavirus Should Follow Science
2021-06-28 13:40

For more than a year, the COVID-19 epidemic has been raging around the world. The virus frequently mutates, and the situation is still complicated and severe. In order to scientifically deal with the virus and better prevent possible risks in the future, it is very important to find the origin and source of the virus.

On the issue of origin-tracing, China has been calling for international cooperation on the basis of respecting facts and science, and has always been a supporter for global scientific research on the source of the virus and its transmission routes. Soon after the COVID-19 outbreak, China reported the situation to the WHO and published the genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus at the first opportunity available. China put in place the strictest information release system in a professional and efficient manner to provide authoritative information in a timely manner, carried out epidemic-related technical exchanges and shared information with more than 180 countries and over 10 international and regional organizations. China co-sponsored the WHA resolution on COVID-19 and support WHO-led cooperation on zoonotic source research among member states. Despite the daunting task of domestic prevention and control, China twice invited WHO experts in for study of origins. From January 14 to February 10 this year, Chinese experts and international experts from WHO and ten countries formed a joint team and conducted joint research for 28 days in Wuhan. China did a lot of administrative, technical, logistic and supporting work for the joint study. China offered the joint mission every convenience, arranged a rich itinerary with many site visits, and presented item by item raw data of particular concern. These fully demonstrate China's openness, transparency and responsible attitude. Many experts on the joint mission spoke highly of China, saying that they had comprehensive and frank discussions with the Chinese side on data issues, were able to obtain key data throughout the process, could feel the trust and openness of the Chinese side, and were granted full access to every place they asked to see, everyone they wanted to meet. In March, the WHO released the origin-tracing study report of the China-WHO joint mission, drawing a clear conclusion that lab leak is extremely unlikely. Peter Daszak, member of the WHO international expert group and president of EcoHealth Alliance, said in a recent interview with an American media outlet, "There is no evidence that this was a virus created in a lab ... In fact, we've worked with the lab in Wuhan for 15 years now ... And we know that they do not have that virus in the lab".

Although Chinese and foreign experts and the WHO have given their authoritative and science-based views on the "lab leak" hypothesis, unfortunately, we have seen rhetoric and actions that stigmatize and label the virus. Politicians and media in US and some other countries are still vigorously hyping up the narrative that "the virus was leaked from the WIV" and pushing for investigations into it. Being the first country to report COVID-19 cases doesn't necessarily make China the origin of the novel coronavirus. In fact, a number of clues, reports and studies suggest that the outbreaks began in multiple locations around the world as early as the second half of 2019. Many medical experts also believe that judging from the overall situation of the epidemic, it is an obvious fact that COVID-19 has multiple origins and broke out in multiple places. Thus, study of origins is a global mission that should be conducted in multiple countries and localities, while using the study to shift the blame to specific countries only creates difficulties and barriers for national efforts to fight the virus and save lives.

Scientific matters need scientific opinions, and professional questions require professional answers. Study of origins should be jointly conducted by scientists all over the world, featuring solidarity and cooperation instead of stoking confrontation and sowing division. The process should not be dictated by any country's will. To politicize this issue will only severely hinder global cooperation in study of origins, jeopardize anti-pandemic cooperation, and cost more lives. It would run counter to the international community's aspiration for solidarity against the virus.

Upholding the spirit of openness, transparency and science on the origin studies, China will continue to cooperate with WHO in this regard, and make due contribution to promoting global solidarity against the virus and saving more lives.

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