WHO REPORT AWAITED

WHO mission doctor confirms China’s clean bill of health on pandemic origin

He says virus is unlikely to have originated from the Wuhan market or a laboratory

In Summary

•President Donald Trump led the conspiracy theories against China’s role in the origin and spread of the pandemic.

•While China had recorded 4,843 deaths and 101,878 confirmed coronavirus cases as at February 28 as posted by the WHO, the US, whose population is less than a third of China’s, had 28.6 million cases and 512,000 deaths.

A general view shows the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market.
SCAPEGOAT: A general view shows the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market.
Image: REUTERS

Ever since the coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan City of China’s Hubei Province, certain leaders, particularly from the Western world, have been desperately and shamelessly selling the narrative that the country is to blame for the pandemic.

While China took immediate action and instituted strict measures to contain the spread of the virus, these leaders have continuously failed to take necessary action to ensure that the pandemic is under control. The results are there for the whole world to see.

A case study of failed leadership in Covid-19 pandemic control is obviously the US, whose former president Donald Trump led the conspiracy theories against China’s role in the origin and spread of the pandemic.

But while the most populated country in the world had recorded 4,843 deaths and 101,878 confirmed coronavirus cases as at February 28 as posted by the World Health Organization, the US, whose population is less than a third of China’s, had 28.6 million cases and 512,000 deaths.

Indeed, blaming China has been a convenient scapegoat for the inaction and ineptness of the previous US administration. But with excuses for the ineptitude having run out, the new US leader Joe Biden has taken things more seriously and is calling for more stringent measures to curb the virus.

Now, the recent WHO Covid-19 mission into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has released a preview of what we may expect to read in the final report. The mission was a joint exercise between the WHO and the Chinese health commission.

An aerial view shows the Huoshenshan Hospital. Digital tools helped coordinate its design and construction, within 10 days early last year. China has controlled the spread of Covid-19.
An aerial view shows the Huoshenshan Hospital. Digital tools helped coordinate its design and construction, within 10 days early last year. China has controlled the spread of Covid-19.
Image: REUTERS

There were a total of 17 Chinese and ten international experts, plus seven other experts and support staff from various agencies. Their mandate included analyzing the clinical epidemiology (how Covid-19 spread), the molecular epidemiology (the genetic makeup of the virus and its spread), and the role of animals and the environment.

There is no more damning truth to the conspiracy theorists than a statement made by team member from Australia Dr Dominic Dwyer, Director of Public Health Pathology. In a recent article published in The Conversation blog, Dwyer gave an exposé of their findings. “The market in Wuhan, in the end, was more of an amplifying event rather than necessarily a true ground zero. So we need to look elsewhere for the viral origins.”

Dwyer went further to address the elephant in the room – the ridiculous assertion that China actually manufactured the virus. “The most politically sensitive option we looked at was the virus escaping from a laboratory. We concluded this was extremely unlikely.”

“The most politically sensitive option we looked at was the virus escaping from a laboratory. We concluded this was extremely unlikely.”
PROF DOMINIC DWYER: “The most politically sensitive option we looked at was the virus escaping from a laboratory. We concluded this was extremely unlikely.”
Image: REUTERS

Further, Dwyer said that the clinical epidemiology group alone looked at China’s records of 76,000 episodes from more than 200 institutions of anything that could have resembled Covid-19 — such as influenza-like illnesses, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses and found no clear evidence of substantial circulation of Covid-19 in Wuhan during the latter part of 2019 before the first case.

So, where does that leave those who have either survived or thrived through misinformation about the origins of the pandemic? Of course, at a very bad place after their lies have been exposed. It means that they have to go back to the drawing board and do the hard work of engaging with the virus in a more substantial way.

HELP AT HAND

China has promised that it will help where it can without any discrimination. This would include sharing strategies with the US to forestall further Covid-19 waves that have dealt a near death blow to the largest economy in the world.

Wherever the virus emanated from is at this point irrelevant. The issues have been how lives can be saved in the most cost-effective manner. Indeed, there is no reason why those in denial cannot own up and approach China for its expertise and experience in dealing with the pandemic.

Even amid the unfounded accusations, China has promised that it will help where it can without any discrimination. This would include sharing strategies with the US to forestall further Covid-19 waves that have dealt a near death blow to the largest economy in the world. To cap it all, China’s promise to make its vaccine a public good rest any lingering doubts about its commitment to getting rid of something that it should not take blame for.

Ultimately, playing geopolitics with such a grave matter simply wastes precious time and energy. It adds suffering to humanity, the poor who are hard pressed to cushion themselves from the effects of the pandemic.

The writer is a Nairobi-based communication expert and international affairs columnist.