Where did the Covid-19 come from? It has been the biggest mystery question for now, as its origins remain unknown. The world has been hit hard by the pandemic, with nearly 214 million people worldwide infected, over four million losing lives, crippling the livelihoods and economies.
Two years since the pandemic, as people in the world are trying to fight against and cope with the pandemic they have also developed an expectation and hope in science, which can only come up with an accurate and just response over the origins.
Unfortunately, some ‘powerful’ countries have been coming up with misinformation in regard to the origins of the virus. Without even waiting for scientists’ conclusions, they have politicized the issue and created some sort of negative narrative against China, where the virus was first identified.
In May 2021, US President Joe Biden gave American intelligence agencies 90 days’ deadline to explore the origins of the virus. Many international experts argued this was meant to harm the image of China.
It is clear that the US and China—the world’s two major superpowers—are in the cold war. There have been claims and counterclaims and accusations and counter-accusations about the origins of Covid-19 by both sides. The direction for investigation came at a time when, with the spread of the Delta variant in the US, the number of cases and deaths continued to rise.
After three months, on August 27, a report on Covid-19 origins was released by the US intelligence agencies. The world also kept a closer eye and keen interest in the issue. But the report had nothing specific. It was reported that there wasn’t even agreement within the US intelligence community as two different agencies came up with two different conclusions. On the contrary, it exposed the ugly intention. It is an open secret now that the Western powers are bent on checking the rise of China. Baseless accusations on China can be taken as the latest such measure.
Those who believe in science should understand that the conclusions should be scientific, based on the real investigation carried out with a good intention of finding out the truth, rather than blaming any particular country or institution.
The issue of virus origins has been much politicized. Science is essential to determine how the virus that triggered the Covid-19 pandemic reached humans. Scientists should follow the facts and evidence rather than scapegoating individuals or institutions based on hypothetical scenarios.
The US government and many media outlets seem to have ignored the scientific evidence and are continuing to search for the origins of the Covid-19, ignoring shared voices of the global scientists.
Media sometimes becomes a tool to create and shape narratives against a certain country or an individual.
Once it was reported that some prominent US scientists focused on tracing Covid-19 origins have been facing tremendous political pressure, while some have been sidelined for not yielding to politician-driven conspiracy theories on the matter, and many have even received threats. This important issue was not highlighted by the media.
China should be more open and cooperative to resolve the mystery of coronavirus. It should offer all the necessary help, information and evidence to support the scientific investigation.
Some studies suggest that the new SARS-CoV-2 virus was spreading for several weeks or even months before it was discovered in Wuhan in December 2019. A preprint research paper has suggested that the coronavirus may have been silently spreading in the US as early as September 2019. Besides, many scientists also expressed a strong inclination to support the World Health Organization to conduct the next stage coronavirus probe in the US, citing evidence that suggested the virus may have emerged in the US earlier than it was officially identified.
It should also be noted that the US has been refusing to respond to the international community’s reasonable doubts on the Fort Detrick biolab and the over 200 overseas bases for biological experiments.
Trust in science
Throughout human history, there have been a number of pandemic diseases. Some past evolution of viruses should be considered while we talk about the coronavirus. Ebola emerged in 1976. Though it is believed to be zoonotic in origin, the natural host is still unknown. MERS, a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus, was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, but its origins are still not clear. Similarly, it took scientists 40 years to confirm that HIV/AIDS came from a type of chimpanzee in Central Africa.
No country has the right to put its own political interests above people’s lives, nor should a matter of science be politicized for the purpose of slandering and attacking other countries.
Like many other viruses of the past, this virus also might have originated in nature. The virus neither sees borders nor cares about nationality, countries, big or small, rich or poor, east or west, the US or China. It doesn’t discriminate or favor. Origin-tracing is a matter of science. It should be and can only be left to the scientists to identify, through scientific research, the virus’s zoonotic source or animal-human transmission routes.
Thus it is necessary to set aside political or cultural differences in order to trace the virus origins for the benefit of the entire population of the world.
All the countries should be transparent, responsible and cooperative rather than standing divided or being biased. For this, all the countries should be able to create a positive environment. Even the South Asian countries, including Nepal, should take part to contribute to scientific research to trace the origins of Covid-19.
The US, as a responsible superpower, should contribute to creating an atmosphere for international cooperation on origins-tracing and global solidarity against the pandemic. It should stand for science-based origins-tracing and cooperation in the face of the pandemic. As a global powerhouse, it should not engage in blame games or accusations but collaborate on global anti-pandemic initiatives. The global public health disaster should not be turned into a major power tussle by politicizing a scientific issue.
On its part, China should also be more open and cooperative to resolve the mystery of coronavirus. It should offer all the necessary help, information and evidence to support the scientific investigation.
In these crucial and uncertain times, all the countries should work together in a transparent way for the fact-based international investigation to trace the origins of the virus. The major responsibility of all the countries now is to save lives and work together in solidarity to prevent and contain future outbreaks.
Shristi Kafle is a freelance journalist based in Kathmandu.