Cyprus Mail
Guest Columnist

Politicising Covid-19 origin-tracing misleading, harms fact-finding efforts


Riddled with continuous bad news such as unbearable high inflation and incessant bank failures, the United States again set off a frenzy of throwing mud at China by playing the Covid lab leak trick, which has been dismissed by many as a political conspiracy.

US media’s new poll results over the past few days showed that the majority of Americans tend to believe that the Covid-19 virus originated from a lab leak rather than naturally. These polls followed a classified intelligence report by the US energy department, which suggested that the virus probably came from a lab leak, despite the fact that the department made its updated judgment with “low confidence.”

Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, the United States has become a breeding ground for various ridiculous Covid-related conspiracy theories. From the White House to Capitol Hill, politicians have been wild about spreading or even creating such absurd fallacies to mislead the American people, solely from the standpoint of their own parties or interest groups.

While it is important to determine the true origins of the virus to prevent future pandemics, this should be done in the domain of science and must be carried out by professionals following strict scientific rules and attitudes.

In February 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a joint report with China on the origins of the pandemic following a four-week investigation in China and concluded that the lab leak hypothesis was “extremely unlikely.”

One of the most recent science-based reports, published in Science Magazine in October 2022 by an expert panel, overwhelmingly supported the zoonotic hypotheses and concluded that the Covid-19 virus likely spread naturally in a zoonotic jump from an animal to humans, without help from a lab.

It’s ridiculous to rely on “intelligence” information to determine the origins of the virus instead of scientific evidence, and US intelligence agencies as a whole remain decidedly split on which theory is more likely. In May 2021, US President Joe Biden tasked the “intelligence community” to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 virus, and the conclusion was that they were “divided on the most likely origins” of the virus.

It seems that American politicians are living in a “no-evidence-needed” age. Using “probable” or “likely” reasons to come to conclusions about the origins of the virus is nothing more than political posturing, which not only seriously arrests scientific research, but also irresponsibly misleads the public.

The poll results that “Americans leaning strongly toward the belief that the coronavirus leaked from a lab” have been used by right-wing media to play up their conspiracy theories, and by some politicians on Capitol Hill to support their anti-China moves.

Virus-tracing is a highly scientific subject, therefore to ask the public about their views on this is often absurd. Besides telling people how many per cent of people are glad to offer an opinion on subjects that they know little about and offering the media a chance to hype up a misleading fallacy, such polls are useless and could even be harmful.

Contrary to American politicians’ slanders, China has been open and transparent, hosting WHO experts twice to conduct joint research and sharing more data and research findings than any other country. Meanwhile, the United States, which has the most biological research labs and a dark record of lab-leaking incidents, has been refusing to heed international calls for investigation and sharing relevant data.

As more clues from the international science community are pointing to the origins of the virus as coming from around the world, the US government should have opened its door to an international investigation of suspected Covid-19 cases long before the pandemic was on its soil, such as the outbreak of e-cigarette lung disease between July 2019 and February 2020 and the pneumonia outbreak following the sudden shutdown of the Fort Detrick military lab in July 2019.

Investigations into these suspected cases would have been helpful in tracing the virus’ origins. However, the US government shut its door and never cared to give an explanation, while at the same time groundlessly criticising China for so-called “not cooperating.”

Tracing the origins of a virus takes time, and politicians should not waste time on conclusions that are not based on scientific research. American politicians’ refusal to cooperate and their tendency to propagate conspiracy theories will only further damage their already low credibility in the international community.

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