WHO’s finding on virus trumps Trump’s theory - GulfToday

WHO’s finding on virus trumps Trump’s theory


A WHO-led team of experts visits a Wuhan hospital that was one of the first to treat COVID-19 patients. Reuters

The statement by the World Health Organisation team that the coronavirus pandemic did not start in Wuhan is revelatory, to say the least. For months, American rhetoric, led by Donald Trump, had been portraying China in a bad light, saying it was Wuhan that was responsible for the outbreak of the contagion that held the world to ransom.

Trump kept on trumpeting about the ‘Chinese virus,’ as he called it, saying it may have started in a Chinese virology lab, but declined to describe the evidence, ratcheting up tension with Beijing over the origins of the deadly outbreak.

He did not mince words at a White House event, when asked if he had seen evidence that gave him a “high degree of confidence” the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“Yes, yes I have,” he said, declining to give specifics. “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

Most experts believe the virus originated in a market selling wildlife in Wuhan and jumped from animals to people.

Hours after the WHO team revealed the preliminary finding, Washington said it wanted to scrutinise data used by the team, which concluded that the virus causing COVID-19 did not originate in a laboratory in Wuhan, and that bats remain a likely source.

China, on the other hand, sought to throw the ball into the American court.

“We wish that the US side can, like China, uphold an open and transparent attitude, and be able to invite WHO experts to the US to conduct origin tracing research and inspection,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular daily briefing, repeating a call it has been making recently.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that the Biden administration had not been involved in the “planning and implementation” of the WHO investigation and wanted to take an independent review of its findings and underlying data.

Peter Ben Embarek, who heads the WHO-led team that spent four weeks in China – two of them in quarantine – said that the investigation had not dramatically changed its picture of the outbreak, although the virus could have crossed borders before arriving in Wuhan.

In addition to ruling out a lab leak, he said that frozen food could possibly be a means of transmitting the virus, that would support a thesis backed by Beijing, which has blamed some case clusters on imported food packaging.

A WHO expert sent to China to probe the coronavirus hit out at US intelligence on COVID-19 as his team headed home with few answers about the origin of a pandemic that was forcing more clampdowns in some of the hardest-hit parts of the world.

The coronavirus has infected close to 107 million people, playing havoc with the global economy, and straining ties between Washington and Beijing.

The WHO mission to the ground zero city of Wuhan wrapped up Tuesday without any concrete answers, with Washington again expressing scepticism about China’s transparency and cooperation.

The WHO team did not identify which animal transferred the coronavirus to humans, but said there was no indication it was circulating in Wuhan before December 2019, when the first official cases were recorded.

If the WHO theory is to be believed, it shows that the virus may have started in some other country. Whether it came from the West or the Far East or some other area is a matter of conjecture, but until hard-boiled evidence is found, one should not blame any one country. In this regard, fanning the flames of prejudice by raising the bogey of China has to be doused.

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