Where did the coronavirus come from: Answer is still being sought

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(ORDO NEWS) — There are two main hypotheses about the origin of SARS-CoV-2: either the virus arose on its own and spread to humans directly from bats or through an intermediate host, or it was designed by scientists and then there was a laboratory leak.

It is also possible that the virus was found in animals, and only then, due to an oversight in the laboratory, people were infected with it.

To understand what really happened, in May 2020, WHO member countries asked to assemble an expert group.

The specialists arrived in China only in January 2021. Their report stated that a leak from the lab was “highly unlikely” and that the virus was most likely of natural origin.

“Laboratory” hypotheses at that time were marginal, and most experts then and now are inclined to believe that the virus arose naturally.

But many were outraged by the report of the WHO mission: the conclusion was almost unsubstantiated, the experts did not get access to everything they needed, and the Chinese side agreed on the text of the report before publication.

After that, several open letters appeared calling for a new investigation. The WHO was also about to send another mission, but China was reluctant to cooperate and insisted on investigations in other countries.

Chinese officials said that the virus could have got to Wuhan, where the first outbreak of COVID-19 was detected, in frozen meat or something else, and that one of the world‘s largest research centers in the world, where they study coronaviruses, is a coincidence.

In July 2021, WHO announced a plan for further action, which, among other things, indicated the inspection of Wuhan laboratories.

Chinese officials were not satisfied with this plan. Soon the participants of the first mission published an article where they wrote that time is running out: some research will be impossible to carry out.

What did the WHO representatives say?

The new expert group never arrived in China, and on Tuesday, epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told Nature that plans had changed and that it was politics.

But the next day, WHO spokesman Tarik Jaszarevic said that the organization had always considered it necessary to find out the origin of SARS-CoV-2, but for this, China must provide access and data. Van Kerkhove herself also issued a refutation.

According to Bloomberg, then the head of WHO Tedros Ghebreyesus, confirming the words of Yasharevich, said that seven weeks ago he appealed to a high-ranking official from China with a call for cooperation and that the WHO would get an answer.

At a briefing on Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that they are already cooperating and will continue to do so, and WHO experts who came to China earlier prepared a “scientifically sound and credible” report.

June 2022 also saw the release of the report of the Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of New Pathogens (CAGO), a permanent panel of experts convened by WHO to consult, including on SARS-CoV-2.

The main conclusion in this report is that more research is needed, and the laboratory leak hypothesis is said to need to be carefully tested.

However, SAGO members from China, Russia and Brazil left a note that they see no point in further investigating whether there was a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In the Nature article on the second stage of the epidemiological investigation, it is noted that some of the work proposed by WHO has already been done.

In May 2021, Chinese scientists tested more than 88,000 plasma samples from Wuhan donors received from September 1 to December 31, 2019, shortly before the first outbreak of COVID-19.

They did not find antibodies that neutralize coronavirus particles. This is consistent with the results of genomic analyzes: it is unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 appeared in September and spread widely by the end of 2019.

Other Chinese scientists have found traces of the coronavirus in samples from the Huanan market taken in January-February 2020. Many of those who got sick with COVID-19 at the beginning of the first outbreak went to this market.

According to the authors of the work, SARS-CoV-2 was spread by people. But scientists not involved in the study would like to look at the raw data: it might be possible to link the virus to some kind of animal.

Republican congressional investigation

Meanwhile, in the US, Republicans in the House of Representatives are launching their own investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

They are convinced that intelligence and officials withheld important information. It is reported by The Associated Press.

Republicans sent written requests to former adviser to US President Joe Biden and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes, Secretary of Health Javier Becerra, head of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance Peter Dashak (who was also a member of the first WHO mission to name hypothesis of a “highly unlikely” laboratory leak) and others. The requests are not binding, but if refused, the Republicans intend to get a court order.

In 2021, Joe Biden ordered that the origin of the coronavirus be investigated by the US intelligence agencies. They didn’t succeed.

The declassified portion of the report said that SARS-CoV-2 was unlikely to have been created as a bioweapon, but it is not clear if it was spread from an animal or if humans became infected due to a laboratory leak.

Yet in 2022, Republicans argued that something points to the artificial origin of the coronavirus. They also accused Anthony Fauci of lying under oath when he told a congressional hearing that the National Institutes of Health did not fund the Wuhan gain-of-function experiments.

Fauci called these accusations nonsense and assured that he would cooperate if anything happened. Be that as it may, nothing points to the connection of COVID-19 with experiments on American money.


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