Last week WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said his organization had been “premature” when it ruled out the lab leak theory of the virus’ origin. He went a bit beyond that and said that, having worked in a lab himself, he was well aware that “accidents happen.” “We need information, direct information on what the situation of this lab was before and at the start of the pandemic,” he said. The investigation into the lab would fall under phase 2 of the WHO’s efforts to identify the origin of the virus.
The response from China was exactly what you’d expect if you’ve paid any attention to their public statements over the past 18 months. “It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” the Vice Minister of the National Health Commission said.
Why is it impossible exactly? They never really say. The only thing that is clear is that they are not going to cooperate at all. As I’ve said before, China got the answer it wanted from the first WHO investigation so they aren’t going to risk a second one.
Friday the Washington Post editorial board pointed out that China’s flat rejection of any further investigation was “so absolute as to beggar belief.” That’s especially true given what we already know:
The institute was carrying out experiments using chimeric viruses with modified spike proteins, tested on mice with respiratory cells genetically altered to resemble those of humans. The goal was to see which were more infective. These experiments were written into grant applications, including for U.S. funds; the research began in 2014-2015 and was underway at the institute through 2019. The work was not done in the highest biosecurity level laboratory. The institute had collected bat coronavirus samples from a mine in southern China and stored genomic sequences of a number of them. The outgoing Trump administration alleged in a Jan. 15 statement that Wuhan institute workers had become ill “with symptoms consistent with both covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses.” China has refused to allow further investigation into these and other unresolved questions, while pointing instead to potential virus origins beyond its borders, and spreading disinformation that it came from a U.S. military laboratory.
Suspiciously, everywhere China looks, it comes up empty-handed. China reported to the WHO that more than 80,000 wildlife, livestock and poultry samples were checked for the virus before and after the outbreak, and none tested positive. In search of human health records, China checked 233 institutions with 76,253 records of respiratory conditions between October and November 2019 and identified 92 that might be SARS-CoV-2, but then said none were.
The editorial concludes that China’s behavior constitutes “a pattern of denial, diversion and deception.”
I don’t see how anyone could argue with that. Of course none of that means a lab leak was responsible. We still don’t know that and may never know for sure. But the flat refusal to even provide data on what the lab was doing and the individuals who were working there who got sick is pretty remarkable under the circumstances.
I get that no country is in the habit of letting foreign investigators come in and kick around in their territory but this is a pretty extreme circumstance. More than 4 million people worldwide have died from this virus and yet, 18 months later, we don’t know how that happened. The idea that China could simply tell the entire world to buzz off is pretty astounding. What more could it possibly take for the world to unite and tell China that’s just not good enough? Where is President Biden’s leadership on this? Are we really going to leave this to Dr. Tedros to work out with teh CCP? At the moment that’s how it looks.
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