There is a team of international scientists under the auspices of the UN currently in China to study the origins of the coronavirus, particularly how it made the jump from animals to humans. The first major outbreak occurred in Wuhan which instituted a massive lockdown that managed to suppress the spread so that the city is bustling with activity again, with traffic jams, busy restaurants and markets, and people now move around freely and do all the normal things, though there are still a few restrictions such as you have to wear masks all the time outdoors and groups of people must not exceed a dozen.
But what I found interesting is that now the Chinese authorities are pushing the idea that the virus originated outside of China and entered the country through imported food from the US. This may be in reaction to Trump’s constant efforts to blame China for the outbreak to the extent of referring to it as the ‘kung flu’ and demanding that world bodies refer to it as the ‘China virus’. So far there has been little or no evidence in support of the idea that the virus originated outside of China let alone in the US but people on the street in Wuhan seem to strongly believe it, demonstrating that the desire to adopt self-serving beliefs that absolve one’s own country in the absence of evidence transcends national boundaries.
From the moment a new, pandemic coronavirus emerged in the same city as a laboratory dedicated to the study of new coronaviruses with pandemic potential, Prof Shi Zhengli has found herself the focus of one of the biggest scientific controversies of our time.
For much of the past year she has met the suggestion that Sars-Cov-2 might have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology with angry denial.
In an article in this month’s edition of Science Magazine she referred to a number of studies that, she said, suggest the virus existed outside of China before Wuhan’s first known case in December 2019.
But with the virus vanquished, the idea that it is a foreign import is repeated with almost unanimity across this city of 11 million people.
“It came here from other countries,” one woman running a hotpot stall in a busy street tells me. “China is a victim.”
“Where did it come from?” the next-door fishmonger repeats my question aloud, and then answers: “It came from America.”
So there we are. Knowing where the virus originated and how it emerged and spread is important in order to be able to better combat it and take preventive measures against future outbreaks. Trying to avoid and shift blame to others does no good and only makes things worse since it distracts from the main goal.