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The Truth on the Origin of the Novel Coronavirus

2020-05-10 15:33


Recently, some US politicians and media outlets have been fabricating preposterous allegations and lies of one kind or another in order to shift the blame to China for their inadequate response to COVID-19.

However, as Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time".

Lies evaporate in the light of truth. It is time to let facts speak for themselves.

In future, we will continue to reveal the truth to the world whenever new lies appear.

1.Allegation: COVID-19 is "Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus".

Reality Check: WHO has made it clear that the naming of a disease should not be associated with a particular country or place.

◆ Drawing on the lessons about naming infectious diseases in the past, especially the huge negative impacts caused by the naming of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, WHO, in collaboration with the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, identified the Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases on 8 May 2015. According to these guidelines, the naming of a disease should avoid geographic locations, people's names, class of animal or food, cultural, population, industry or occupational references (for example legionnaires) and terms that incite undue fear.


◆ On 11 February 2020, WHO, on the basis of the 2015 Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases as well as international public health practices, officially named the pneumonia caused by novel coronavirus the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).


◆ Last April, the British science journal Nature, published three editorials, apologizing for connecting COVID-19 with Wuhan and China. It called for an immediate stop to coronavirus stigma and the irresponsible act of associating a virus with a specific place.


◆ The New York Times, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other mainstream media in the West all reported that the wrongful connection of Asian communities with COVID-19 stoked serious xenophobia, and frequent occurrences of racist discrimination and harassment against these communities in the US.

2.Allegation: Wuhan is the origin of the virus.

Reality Check: Being the first to report the virus does not mean that Wuhan is its origin. In fact, the origin is still not identified. Source tracing is a serious scientific matter, which should be based on science and should be studied by scientists and medical experts.

◆ Historically, the place that first reported a virus were often not its origin. For example, HIV infection was first reported by the US, yet it might also be possible that the virus did not originally come from the US. And more and more evidence proves that the Spanish Flu did not originate from Spain.

◆ Source tracing is a scientific matter. Its main purpose is to prevent similar epidemics from happening again and causing damage to the human society. At the moment, scientists around the world are searching for the source of the virus, and have presented many academic views on it. Chinese scientists are also earnestly conducting studies in order to provide the scientific basis for identifying the origin at an early date and dealing with the virus with targeted measures.

◆ On 24 January, The Lancet, an authoritative British medical journal, published an article co-authored by Cao Bin, Director of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Department of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Huang Chaolin, Vice President and Chief Physician of Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, Professor Li Xingwang, an expert with the Clinical and Research Center of Infectious Diseases of Beijing Ditan Hospital, Professor Ren Lili, an expert at the Institute of Pathogen Biology of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Zhao Jianping, Director of Department of Respiratory Medicine of Wuhan Tongji Hospital, etc.

The article reviews and analyzes the first 41 confirmed cases of COVID-19 admitted to hospital in Wuhan between 16 December 2019 and 2 January 2020. It has found that 27 of the 41 patients had been exposed to Huanan seafood market, while the rest 14 had not. The symptom onset date of the first patient identified was 1 December 2019. None of his family members developed fever or any respiratory symptoms. This patient had no exposure to Huanan seafood market. No epidemiological link was found between him and later cases.

◆ Viruses are the common enemy of mankind, which may appear at any time and in any place. Epidemics are natural in origin, not man-made. The origin of a virus or epidemic is a victim, not a culprit. It is unfair and unacceptable to blame it or hold it accountable.

◆On 1 May, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said that science needs to be at the center of the exploration of the source of the virus, and they would like to see scientists at the center. He also stated that the WHO had not received any data or specific evidence from the US Government relating to the purported origin of the virus.


◆Michael Melham, Mayor of Belleville of New Jersey, said that he has tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, and thinks he may have been sick with the virus back in November 2019. That is over two months before the first reported case in the US on 20 January 2020.


◆On 6 May, USA Today reported that 171 people in Florida showed symptoms of COVID-19 as early as in January 2020, and none reported traveling to China. That was several months before officials announced it had come to Florida.


◆On 3 May, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents published an article entitled "SARS-COV-2 was already spreading in France in late December 2019". According to the article, researchers reviewed the medical record of 14 selected ICU patients admitted for influenza-like illness between December 2, 2019 and January 16, 2020, and retrospectively performed COVID-19 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on them between April 6 and 9, 2020. It was found that one sample was positive taken from a 42-year-old man. The absence of a link with China and the lack of recent travel abroad suggest that the disease was already spreading among the French population at the end of December 2019.


3. Allegation: The virus was constructed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Reality Check: All available evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is natural in origin, not man-made.

◆ On 30 January, the prestigious UK medical journal, The Lancet, published an article on COVID-19 by research teams including China CDC, which considered the virus a new human-infecting coronavirus, based on the phylogenetic analysis of the ten 2019-nCoV genome sequences from nine confirmed patients from Wuhan. The article pointed out that compared with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, 2019-nCoV was more closely related to two bat-derived severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like coronaviruses. The analysis suggests that bats might be the original host of this virus.


◆ On 19 February, The Lancet published a joint statement by 27 leading medical experts from eight countries, indicating that scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of SARS-CoV-2, and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens.


◆ On 17 March, five prominent scholars from the US, the UK and Australia pointed out on Nature Medicine that the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.


◆ In his blog article posted on 26 March, Francis Collins, Director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), pointed out that this novel coronavirus arose naturally. Researchers discovered that the virus could not have been man-made for it does not have the backbones of known coronaviruses. Instead, it probably evolved from a bat coronavirus and a novel virus found in pangolins. It is not the product of purposeful manipulation in a lab.


◆ On 21 April, WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said at a news briefing that all available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else. It most likely has its ecological reservoir in bats but how the virus came from bats to humans is still to be seen and discovered.


◆ On 30 April, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of the US issued a statement on its official website making clear that the Intelligence Community concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.


◆ Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme Michael Ryan said on 1 May that numerous scientists have looked at the genome sequence of this virus and we are assured that this virus is natural in origin.


◆ WHO Representative in China Dr. Gauden Galea said on 5 May that all available evidence to date suggests that the virus has a natural animal origin and is not a manipulated or constructed virus. Many researchers have been able to look at the genomic features of the virus and have found that evidence does not support that it is a laboratory construct.


◆ The French news weekly, Valeur Actuelle, cited information from the country's intelligence authorities to state that it is absolutely certain that the novel coronavirus is not a leak from a P4 lab in Wuhan.

4. Allegation: COVID-19 was caused by an accidental leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Reality Check: The Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory (Wuhan P4 Laboratory) in the WIV is a government cooperation program between China and France. The Institute does not have the capability to design or synthesize a new coronavirus, and there is no evidence of pathogen leaks or staff infections in the Institute.

◆ The Wuhan P4 Laboratory is a government cooperation program between China and France, with its design, construction and management all following international standards, and operations protected by special facilities and strict protocols. All lab staff must pass relevant tests to obtain qualification, and the first group had received training in other P4 labs in France and America. The Lab must have its facilities and equipment examined on an annual basis by a government-accredited third-party agency, and can continue to operate only after it passes such annual inspections.

◆The WIV is committed to timely and open sharing of research information through sharing data, publishing papers, attending seminars and conferences, and promoting science among the general public. Over the past year, the Institute has received visits by over 70 researchers and scholars from other parts of the world. As one of the dozens of P4 labs in the world, the Institute pursues a global vision of development, upholds the principles of being open and transparent to all, and promotes exchange and cooperation with all countries in an active and pragmatic way. The "2019 Novel Coronavirus Resource (2019nCoVR)", an information sharing platform of the WIV, has so far registered over 600,000 visits and 21 million downloads.

◆Operations of the Wuhan P4 Laboratory have all along been safe and stable. There had been no SARS-CoV-2 in the lab until 30 December 2019 when the first COVID-19 patient specimens were delivered there for testing three days after the local government received first reports of the virus. No one in the WIV has so far been infected by COVID-19.

◆ An official at French President's office said in mid-April that "there is to this day no factual evidence ... linking the origins of COVID-19 and the work of the P4 laboratory of Wuhan, China."


◆ According to a recent article posted by NPR on its website, many US leading virus researchers have concluded based on their studies that there is virtually no chance that the new coronavirus was released as result of a laboratory accident in China or anywhere else. Rather, they believe that this new coronavirus reached humans in the same way that other coronaviruses have.


◆Peter Daszak, President of the US EcoHealth Alliance and a virus expert who has been working with the WIV for the past 15 years, said during his interview with CNN on 26 April that the Wuhan P4 Laboratory didn't have the virus that led to COVID-19, and what has been found now are close relatives, not the same virus. So it's not a possibility that the virus could have come from that lab.


◆Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with National Geographic published on 4 May that the best evidence shows the virus was not made in a lab in China. If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, the virus could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated. This virus evolved in nature and then jumped species. Based on the scientific evidence, he doesn't entertain the theory that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.


◆According to The Independent, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in an interview with Sky News on 6 May that the British government has not seen any evidence to suggest that the novel coronavirus was man-made. He added that "we haven't seen any evidence of a link (between the virus and laboratories researching virus in Wuhan)."


◆The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on 24 April that it would terminate a joint study on bat-to-human virus transmission between the non-profit agency EcoHealth Alliance and the WIV, and withdraw all future funding. The NIH made this decision only seven days after President Trump demanded an end to a grant to the WIV during his 17 April press conference, based on allegations that "the virus escaped the lab". This decision has been widely questioned and criticized by US science community. Gerald Keusch, deputy head of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory at Boston University, called it "a horrible precedent" and "the worst kind of thing that political interference can cause", while Dennis Carroll, chair of the Global Virome Project, described it as an attempt by the Trump Administration to "attack really critical science for cheap political gain".


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