Scientists ‘unable to judge’ if US lab is virus source due to lack of govt response

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/23 18:28:42

Healthcare workers wheel a patient to a triage tent at the Maimonides Medical Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, April 19, 2020.Photo:Xinhua

Responding to viral reports alleging that the novel coronavirus was leaked from a US military biochemical laboratory, Chinese scientists said that they could not make a judgment on the allegation, as the US had not given any public response on the issue.

Shi Yi, a research fellow from the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, made the remarks at a press conference Thursday, noting that the origin of the virus is a scientific issue requiring a long period of research and involves a great deal of uncertainty.

The remarks came amid circulating reports alleging that the Fort Detrick laboratory, which handles high-level disease-causing materials such as Ebola, in Fredrick, Maryland, may be the origin of the deadly novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 2.6 million Americans with nearly 20,000 deaths as of 4:30 pm Thursday. 

The lab was ordered to shut down in July 2019, reportedly for multiple causes, including failure to follow local procedures and a lack of periodic recertification training for workers in the biocontainment laboratories.

Some other posts on social media platforms also alleged that a US armed diplomatic driver and cyclist who was in Wuhan in October 2019 for the cycling competition in the Military World Games, could be patient zero for COVID-19 in Wuhan.  

Netizens from both China and the US have called on the US government to respond to public concerns over the above mentioned issues. Some have even launched a petition on the White House website, but the US government has not made any comment so far. 

Figuring out the origin of the virus will help prevent a similar pandemic and protect human society, and provide scientific support for humans to take targeted protective measures against the virus, according to Shi.    

Scientists from various countries around the world have been committed to the work, including those from China, putting forward different opinions and propositions, Shi said. 

However, the research requires mutual corroboration of the abundant biological information and epidemiological evidence available, which will take a long time and is full of uncertainty, he noted, referring to some diseases that have occurred in human history such as AIDS and SARS, whose origins have still not been identified even after decades of research. 

Global Times


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