Time to probe Fort Detrick biolab despite US hype: Global Times editorial
Published: May 26, 2021 10:47 PM Updated: Jun 01, 2021 09:25 PM
The US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick Photo: AP

The US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick Photo: AP

US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to conduct a second-phase investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in a video message at the annual ministerial meeting of the WHO's World Health Assembly (WHA). 

According to some Western public opinions, the second-phase investigation specifically refers to further investigations in Wuhan, China. Plus, US intelligence agencies are spreading misinformation that three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick with COVID-19 symptoms in November 2019. It is quite clear that Becerra was aiming at China. Representatives from Australia, Japan and the EU echoed his rhetoric. 

Before the WHA meeting, the US prepared public opinion to play up the lab leak theory again. It is unknown whether it was a coincidence. Yet Dr. Anthony Fauci, a US top expert in public health, who believed last year that the theory was a conspiracy, recently changed his remarks by saying he is "not convinced" that COVID-19 developed naturally and "I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China."

The second-phase WHO investigation is necessary, but it should be a global investigation, rather than one that only focuses on Wuhan, China. The WHO expert team which visited Wuhan earlier this year has already concluded that the virus was extremely unlikely to have been leaked from a Chinese lab. When the US gangs up with its allies to pin a "non-independent" and "non-transparency" label to the WHO report, it is putting its own political goal above the WHO expert team's scientific spirit.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has stated that it has had zero infections for all employees since the COVID-19 outbreak. The US' so-called "intelligence" is a vicious political frame-up. Wherever the WHO goes to conduct COVID-19 origins-tracing, it must win the candid cooperation of local scientists and administrative agencies. The WHO expert team has expressed satisfaction and appreciation for China's cooperation. The US wants a presumption of guilt and intends to conduct a "Holmes-style" investigation. It is completely unfeasible in science, and is a political insult to Chinese scientists and administrative agencies.

If they see the "lab leak" theory as one of the directions of the investigation, the Wuhan Institute of Virology should not be the only one included. Since 2019, the Fort Detrick biolab has shown many signs worthy of attention, and should be included in the first group of targets for investigation. In addition, the US has also built an astonishing number of biolabs in Asia, and investigating them is an urgent project that must be added in the COVID-19 origins-tracing.

When Wuhan first confirmed the human-to-human transmission at the early stage of the COVID-19 epidemic and sounded the national alert, there were only a few cases that could be identified. Later events showed that such scale of the epidemic spread like the one in Wuhan hardly received the same degree of attention in the US. Were there COVID-19 cases in the so-called severe "flu" in the US before? A lot of fresh information is calling for WHO experts' investigation into the US.

If the efforts of virus origins-tracing focus on science rather than politics, expanding the scope of the investigation is completely logical and rational. However, the US is repeatedly using its and its allies' opinion tools to draw attention to Wuhan, especially to the lab there. It is clearly a political maneuver.

The US is using topics such as the island of Taiwan and the origin of the novel coronavirus to coerce the WHA. But the assembly should focus on how to control the pandemic as soon as possible and fairly distribute the COVID-19 vaccines. These are soft spots of the US and its key allies. So far, Washington, in particular, has contributed little material support to the global fight against the pandemic. Instead, it has been talking idly to provoke a siege against China, the world's largest supplier of anti-epidemic products. The US has always been the biggest disruptive force in global cooperation against the virus.

What is unfortunate is that as the most powerful country, the US does not care about global justice, nor the most urgent need of fighting the pandemic jointly. All it cares about is to use every opportunity to suppress its "strategic competitor" - China. When this is involved in virus origins-tracing, there will probably never be a final result of origins-tracing based solely on science.