US should ask scientists to investigate itself if it truly cares about origins: epidemiologist
Washington should ask scientists to conduct investigations if it truly cares about origins: epidemiologist
Published: Jun 17, 2021 09:13 PM
Wuhan Institute of Virology Photo: VCG

Wuhan Institute of Virology Photo: VCG

If the Biden administration wants to project itself as a responsible government that respects science, it should dispatch scientists and allow a WHO team to investigate the origins of the coronavirus on US soil, instead of repeating his predecessor's tactic of milking this subject to throw mud on China or serve its other political purposes, said Chinese epidemiologists. 

The remarks came after US news outlet Politico reported on Wednesday that senior officials of the Trump administration decided in the spring of 2020 to strongly imply that COVID-19 came from a Chinese lab, even though intelligence officials investigating the pandemic's origins did not have conclusive evidence supporting that hypothesis.

Politico said that some officials in the White House, the National Security Council and the State Department had urged the US to blame China for covering up the pandemic's origins and to allege that it came from a research facility in Wuhan that specialized in the study of dangerous bat pathogens - a move that they described as going on the diplomatic offensive. 

The goal, officials said, was in part to pressure China to allow the US and the international community access to Wuhan to investigate, according to Politico.

Chinese analysts are not surprised by what the Politico scoop revealed. Combining this report with Biden's actions, they said the current administration is trying to differentiate itself from the previous one on finding the virus' origins. 

"But at the end, they are all the same, 'just milk the subject to attack China'," Zhang Tengjun, an assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

The scoop came as US President Joe Biden spared no efforts peddling the lab leak theory and tried to pin the blame on China during his trip to Europe. Before leaving Europe, Biden said on Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland that it remained unclear whether Beijing was really trying to understand the origins of the coronavirus.

The president ordered US intelligence agencies to look at whether the virus was leaked from a Wuhan lab, and asked the groups to report back to him within 90 days.

"If you think about it, who would put such a short time limit on something so complicated as tracing the origin of an unknown virus? 

"Aren't they afraid that the mission will fail, or they will end up getting a result they don't want? Or unless the man giving the order already gave a preset answer to the so-called investigation team," Zhang said. 

Analysts predicted the final "verdict" of the US investigation team will eventually be used by Biden as a weapon to unite its allies and attack China, such as filing a lawsuit or via other means.

But the US better watch out. Maybe before it hurls any stones at China, it will be obliged to check the virus origins story on its own soil, said Chinese observers. 

A study of more than 24,000 samples taken for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research program in the US between January 2 and March 18, 2020 suggested that seven people in five states - Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - may have been infected well before the country's first confirmed cases, which were reported on January 21. 

When asked whether the WHO would take this new evidence into consideration for the next phase of its COVID-19 origins tracing work, a source close to the organization's joint investigation team with China told the Global Times that "the [WHO] report recommendations include recommendations for such follow-up studies."

Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times on Thursday that the NIH study is very important for finding the virus' origins. 

"Maybe the virus was circulating in the US earlier than in China. I am not suggesting that the US may be the country where the virus comes from," said Zeng, noting it is worth digging.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday urged China to cooperate with further investigations by the US and the WHO into the origins of COVID-19, with the world now "insisting" that Beijing do so. 

In response, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that China did abundant work in cooperating with the WHO team during its trip to China, and it has always been the US that ignored the WHO's preliminary report on the virus' origins, spreading rumors and attacking China.

Many people are also asking, did outbreaks of a respiratory disease in northern Virginia in July 2019, and the e-cigarette (vaping) associated lung injury outbreak in Wisconsin, have any connection with COVID-19? 

Why did the US never respond to questions from the rest of the world surrounding its Fort Detrick lab and other biolabs overseas; and why doesn't the US invite the WHO to investigate the virus' origins on its soil, asked Zhao.

"If the US truly cares about science and the virus origins issue, it should ask scientists to investigate itself; if not, it must have another agenda," Zeng noted.