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Investigating Origins of COVID Confounded by China


It is generally accepted that the origin of COVID should be clearly understood and should be supported with factual and scientific documentation. The international public health community should be able to analyze the factors leading to the emergence of the infection that emerged in Wuhan, China during late 2019 and the subsequent worldwide spread.  This information is critical in planning surveillance programs and to develop an appropriate response to an inevitable future pandemic.


The Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus stated that, “For the sake of the millions of people who died and those who are living with long COVID, we must understand the origin of COVID-19 by exploring all hypotheses.” The WHO considers an investigation of the origin of the pandemic as a “scientific and moral imperative to help prevent future outbreaks”.


The WHO in Geneva approached the origin of COVID from a scientific perspective. From the outset China was evasive and non-cooperative with the WHO as to the extent and severity of infection. The Agency belatedly sent an impartial panel of scientists to Wuhan to investigate the origins of the pandemic. This stage-managed tour deprived WHO-nominated virologists and epidemiologists of the opportunity to review source data and to interview scientists and clinicians associated with the outbreak. In the absence of transparency the origin of the infection has become politicized in both the U. S. and China with evident finger pointing and some outlandish and unsupported theories of origin. 


The U.S. House and Senate have voted unanimously to declassify all U. S. intelligence information on the origin of the pandemic.  This will facilitate Congressional enquiries into the origin of the disease. It remains for the President to now enact the legislation that requires release of  “any and all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of coronavirus disease”.  It is questioned whether the President will sign the Bill, although with overwhelming passage in both houses, a veto by the President would be subject to an instant override.


According to Reuters, eight federal agencies have investigated the origin of COVID without attaining unanimity as to the source, whether a natural emergence in wild animals or an accidental laboratory release. This is attributed to the lack of human intelligence in the form of credible whistleblowers or published studies other than those emanating from China that may be presumed to be subject to Government censorship.


To dispel one theory in circulation, it is highly unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 was created as a bioweapon. A human coronavirus developed from bats would be lower than a 10th choice among available pathogens. Intending perpetrators of a bioweapon ifor deployment should have a stockpile of effective vaccines or therapeutic agents to protect their forces in advance of an attack. The absence of a specific vaccine and known instability of the virus mitigate against a deliberate attempt at weaponization.


There are two leading theories of the origin of COVID. The first is a spontaneous mutation of a coronavirus in a free-living animal reservoir with the pathogen that crossed over into susceptible human contacts. The fact that the population of China has a predilection for consuming a variety of reptilian and mammalian exotics purchased in both rural and urban wet markets creates the potential for emergence of an infection carried by animals. It is evident that SARS, the progenitor of COVID, that emerged in Foshan with a 7 million population in November 2002 was associated with patients having contact with urban wet markets as opposed to patients in rural areas. Apparent concentration of early cases residing in the vicinity of the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Market was presented as evidence of the animal to human route. This was reinforced by recovery of SARS-CoV-2 virus from animal stalls and locations in the market subsequent to closure. These lines of investigation provide circumstantial evidence but do not confirm that the market was the source of infection.   In a characteristic response, authorities in China initially suppressed information concerning the outbreak and failed to cooperate with international health agencies to control the spread of the disease. More recently in the face of criticism scientists in China have implicated Asian raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) as a carrier of SARS-CoV-2 virus.


The second prevailing theory of the emergence of COVID relates to inappropriate gain of function experiments on bat coronaviruses conducted by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It is possible that with defective BSL-3 protocols, dissemination of a modified virus pathogenic to humans occurred. This could have been achieved either by spread from infected laboratory personnel or by release of the virus by the aerogenous route. The implicated wet market is three miles distant from the Institute, on the West bank of the Yangtze River that separates the urban area of the City. If China wishes to disprove the lab-leak theory, relevant serologic data and health records should be made available to investigators together with gene sequences of early cases. This data requested by the WHO panel was not released.


This commentator has taken a proverbial 30,000-foot view of the emergence of COVID as we know it, and applied logic in the absence of analyzable data. It would appear to this commentator that the emergence of COVID in the city of Wuhan with a population of 12 million and the home of an Institute working with bat coronaviruses, represents a coincidence of overwhelming proportions. This is in recognition of twenty other metropolitan areas in China each with more than five million inhabitants and presumably without ongoing bat coronavirus research.


China did not do itself any favors by initial denial of the existence of the outbreak and then failing to acknowledge contagious transmission. Refusal to admit impartial and qualified epidemiologists offered by the WHO in the early stages of the outbreak and delays in allowing visits by WHO consultants and then obstructing the WHO mission to investigate the source of the disease represent a presumption of guilt, inconsistent with the actions of a responsible nation. Consistent stonewalling, muzzling of scientists, removal of gene sequences from websites and refusal to provide data, although established standard operating procedures for China, creates the impression that Government has a lot to hide. This Nation has effectively rendered the entire World a disservice and brought upon itself the suffering from the economic impact of lockdowns and high mortality.