Editorial: China must come clean

Beijing must now stop playing dangerous games and come out with full disclosure on coronavirus origin

AuthorPublished: 31st May 2021  12:00 amUpdated: 30th May 2021  8:03 pm

The fact that China has been consistently obfuscating and blocking a transparent and evidence-based international investigation into the origin of the coronavirus shows that it has something to hide. Beijing must now stop playing dangerous games and come out with full disclosure. Of late, the theory that the deadly pathogen may have escaped from a research laboratory in China has been gaining ground as more and more scientists have been able to piece together evidence that points towards the laboratory theory. All attention is now riveted on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with reports now emerging that several researchers had fallen sick before the official announcement about the Covid-19 outbreak. Till the end of last year, it was widely believed that the novel coronavirus had been transmitted to humans at a live animal market in Wuhan. However, more and more researchers are now veering around to the view that a thorough and independent probe must be undertaken to get to the bottom of the truth. Following mounting pressure, the Biden Administration has ordered an intelligence probe into the virus origin. This has given credence to the theory that it could be a human-engineered pathogen which escaped from a lab. More than one-and-a-half years after the pandemic outbreak, there is still no clarity on the origin of the coronavirus, which has claimed over 3.4 million lives so far. The first known cases emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

There is growing scepticism over the vague and inconclusive report of the joint investigation team of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and China. Information, data and samples for that study were collected and summarised by a team of Chinese scientists. The rest of the team only built on this analysis, which found no clear evidence either to support a natural spill over or a lab accident. In fact, the team’s mandate did not include any lab investigations but only collection of data. Even before the WHO report was released in March this year, reports said that the global health body had ceded control of the investigation to China. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus himself had commented that the report’s consideration of evidence supporting a laboratory accident was “insufficient” and offered to provide additional resources to fully evaluate all possibilities. It is hugely significant for the head of the global health body, involved in the joint investigation, to say that all the hypotheses were still on the table and that there was a need for further probe. Greater clarity on the origin of the deadly pathogen is necessary to formulate appropriate strategies to tackle the global health crisis and mitigate the risk of future pandemic outbreaks.

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