Origins of COVID: The WHO has formed an advisory group to investigate the origins of COVID, renewing suspicions that China knows more than it’s letting on. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter
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This week, the World Health Organization formed a new 26-member scientific advisory group to investigate the origins of COVID-19 and other pathogens. Another aim of the panel is to figure out how to better prepare for future outbreaks. In regards to where the current virus originated, a WHO report from March delivered no clear verdict. This was partly due to China’s refusal to cooperate. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said this may be the “last chance to understand the origins of this virus.” Here’s what both sides are saying.
On The Right
Right-leaning commentators are extremely suspicious of China and believe Beijing is hiding crucial information. Some think we already have enough information to determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated from a laboratory.
“Science Closes In on COVID’s Origins” Richard Muller and Steven Quay, The Wall Street Journal Opinion: “Based on experience with SARS-1 in 2003 and MERS in 2012, we know that many people are infected by a host animal long before a coronavirus mutates to the point where it can jump from human to human. … If the novel coronavirus were engineered by scientists there would be no instances of community infection until it escaped from the laboratory. A  World Health Organization investigation found zero pre-pandemic infections. This is powerful evidence favoring the lab-leak theory. … [Additionally,] scientists searched for a host in early 2020, testing more than 80,000 animals … Not a single animal infected with SARS-CoV-2 was found. This finding strongly favors the lab-leak theory. We can only wonder if the results would have been different if the animals tested had included the humanized mice kept at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
“China’s refusal to work with outside investigators is fresh proof of its guilt in COVID’s origins” Editorial Board, New York Post: “China is blocking yet another World Health Organization investigation into COVID-19’s origins, more evidence that Beijing played some role in the origins of a pandemic that’s killed 4.5 million. … WHO scientists have sought access to bat caves and wildlife areas in China’s Enshi prefecture in Hubei province in search of samples that could identify animals that served as intermediate hosts for the virus to spread from bats to humans. This would be evidence for the ‘evolved naturally’ hypothesis, which would absolve China of most blame for the plague. Beijing clearly fears (or knows?) that the WHO researchers would find nothing, and thus bolster the ‘lab leak’ theory. … Beijing’s behavior suggests it now knows the bug actually leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after being engineered to infect humans.”
“The world deserves to know the truth about COVID’s origins” Rep. Rob Wittman, Rep. Elise Stefanik, Fox News: “Right now, it is nearly impossible to have all the facts because the Chinese Communist Party has blocked critical information and failed to cooperate with the global community. It leaves all of us asking: ‘What is China hiding?’ … That is why we recently introduced ‘The World Deserves to Know Act.’ Our bill would sanction key communist party officials in China who suppressed the truth, including the silencing and jailing of citizen journalists. In the meantime, our bill will prohibit American taxpayer dollars from being sent to China for potentially dangerous research. … It is time for President Biden to move past empty threats and commit to decisive action necessary to uncover the pandemic’s origins. … It’s essential to hold China accountable if COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Lab.”
On The Left
Left-leaning outlets also believe China should be more transparent. A pair of commentators below take direct aim at The Wall Street Journal article above. They don’t discount the lab-leak theory, but just believe it loses credibility with posts like the ones from Richard Muller and Steven Quay.
“To prevent the next pandemic, we must find the source of COVID-19. China’s stonewalling is unacceptable.”Editorial Board, The Washington Post: “We live in a sea of viruses. Why did this particular one break out in this huge Chinese metropolis, and not elsewhere? Where did the virus acquire the furin cleavage site [which] enhances the ability of the attacking virus to enter human lung cells and produce disease? … No other viruses in the sarbecovirus subgenus, to which its closest relatives belong, have this feature … Was there a laboratory accident or leak of some kind? China has denied it. … Understanding the origins of this pandemic could help prevent the next one. But without a thorough investigation, these questions will not be answered. … No investigation will succeed as long as China’s doors remain shut. The silence is deafening.”
“When will the Wall Street Journal stop publishing lab-leak propaganda?” Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times: “The [Wall Street Journal] opinion section has reveled in China-bashing over the virus … [Recently,] it hit a low note, with an op-ed by [Richard Muller and Steven Quay] declaring that the lab-leak hypothesis has been all but ‘confirmed.’ … It’s important to recognize no one has found any evidence for a lab leak, whatsoever. … Muller and Quay sliced and diced research, some of which has been sitting around on the shelf for more than a year, and reinterpreted to fit their own predilections. … The Wall Street Journal opinion section has a desire to portray China as a sinister entity … There are creditable scientists who regard a lab leak as a plausible scenario for the origin of COVID-19 in humans. Muller and Quay haven’t helped their case.”
“Coronavirus Lab Leak Theory Needs to Be Taken Seriously” Faye Flam, Bloomberg Opinion: “With so many conspiracy theorists embracing the view that the coronavirus escaped from a laboratory, it’s tempting to dismiss the idea. But it’s important to keep an open mind — because the possibility of a lab leak still exists, and needs to be investigated. … The issue has been politicized … The lab leak side, in particular, has been associated with sensationalized media attention, including a Wall Street Journal op-ed … written by Richard Muller and Stephen Quay. … But a flawed argument for the lab leak idea can’t be taken as evidence against it. … The Wuhan Institute of Virology hasn’t done enough to show it’s been operating safely, and that’s a reasonable argument in favor of continued probing into the possible lab origin of the virus. It’s important to focus on that, and not on the uninformed speculation and conspiracy theories.”
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According to the most recent polling from Morning Consult, “The public’s perception of the virus’ origins remains highly polarized, with Republicans much more confident about the lab leak theory (70 percent) than Democrats (32 percent), who were more likely to back the natural spillover hypothesis, at 38 percent,” Gaby Galvin reports. On an international scale, adults in other countries are also skeptical. “The polling indicates that in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Japan, about half of adults think the coronavirus began spreading after an accident in a Chinese lab — an idea that was once considered a fringe conspiracy theory but is now getting a closer look.” This matters because, in a somewhat-related survey from the Pew Research Center, most advanced economies continue to see China in an unfavorable light.
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