Trump, while President of the USA, when accused of mis-handling the Covid-19 epidemic – and he sure did contribute to unimaginable suffering and over half a million deaths – he invariably blamed China. And still does.
More recently in a CNN program, Dr. Redfield, director of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, based on some cock-and-bull hypothesis, that he believes the coronavirus escaped from a lab in China, not via a species-jump from, say, bats. The truth is the origin of the Novel Coronavirus, identified in China, is not yet known. Even Dr. Fauci, popular director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says China not letting U.S. scientists in made a “significant difference”. They, too, gently shift blame. In fact, their agencies had been defunded by Trump, and health research dangerously privatized in the USA.
In the blame game, these scientists did not say that it was the USA that, just before the Coronavirus outbreak, had unilaterally “slashed” American CDC staff working inside China. Reuters used the word “slashed” (26 Mar 2020). It was a part of Trump’s punishing China, while cutting federal spending. Scientific collaboration between the US and China, nurtured for 30 years, was wrecked by Trump in the two years prior to the epidemic. Trump simply withdrew two-thirds of staff from China, including their epidemiologists, leaving their offices shuttered. That is why there were not American doctors in China anymore.
An equally important fact kept secret is that Chinese scientists did the sequencing of the Covid genome in record time – by 3 January 2020, working 24-hours a day for 4 days. China then shared the entire genome. On 5 January 2020, Professor Zhang Yongzhen sent the data in toto to the US agency on genetic sequencing National Center for Biotechnology Information. This is corroborated by its submission date at the U.S government’s Genbank. Prof Zhang on 11 January granted permission for an Australian colleague, Prof. Holmes, to upload the data for the public. In case, you think I’m quoting some obscure Chinese site, I am taking these facts direct from a Time magazine article of 24 Aug 2020. It is this sharing of the genome that helped get vaccine research done so fast.
The blame game against China goes far. Some individual Americans end up throwing a little old lady going shopping to the ground, others beat up a passing older man – because she and he “look Chinese”. Trump’s blaming China is a sadistic game; he jokes about the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu”, while genuinely shifting blame for US deaths from himself to China while pretending Covid is just “a hoax” or “the sniffles”. In proportion to the power people like him have, they create dangerous bubbles of irrationality world-wide.
All this to say that it will be interesting to follow on-going studies on the origins of Covid. With the virus causing so many spreaders without symptoms, this is not easy. We can assume the epidemic likely began in China but it is an assumption. It was originally thought to have come from a particular market, but that, too, is an assumption. There is agreement, however, that it seems to have jumped species from an animal to a human, rather than to be from a lab. But it is not certain. A few facts: On 31 December 2019, the Chinese authorities’ original report to the WHO mentioned an outbreak of “dozens” of atypical cases of pneumonia in the district of Wuhan. For dozens of cases to end up in hospital, we now know that hundreds, or a few thousand, already existed. So, time-wise we are looking at a spread in China over the last quarter of 2019.
But, even in France, an early case of Covid was detected, in retrospect, to have been on 27 December 2019 when throat swabs from a man called Hammar were kept and later found positive. In the USA, there are similar indications of anti-bodies dating from December 2019. In Italy, research involving screening for cancer (Sep 2019 to Mar 2020) later examined, showed some 11% of nearly 1,000 healthy volunteers had coronavirus antibodies. A more specific test showed that four of these cases dated back to the early October 2019; being positive for antibodies in early October means having been infected in September. The four early samples were positive in PCR tests, too (all the volunteers were without symptoms). Also in the ‘kolimater” were the 4-yearly “Military World Games” where countries’ armed services participate in the “Olympics of the military” organized by the International Military Sports Council. The 7th such games were held 18-27 October 2019 in none other than Wuhan. There were 10,000 athletes from over 100 countries with 200,000 volunteers doing the work – all in Wuhan. Was this a vector event of some sort? Scientific study will hopefully inform us in the future.
Origins are important, as are other changes, as the virus mutates. For example, in mink farms in Netherlands and Denmark, genetic sequencing proved Covid-19 transmission from humans to minks and back again, leading to both countries culling their entire populations of minks, some 20 million minks, and closing down the fur industry. In the USA, by contrast, genetic sequencing is not yet up to scratch, the US being only 43rd in the world. The U.S. cannot yet sequence enough to know what is happening in America’s 400 mink farms with their millions of minks. Federal controls are minimal. The problem is that variants may develop and skip species again to humans, and this time around vaccines that used to work, no longer work.
All this means, we really need to help get the whole world vaccinated as soon as possible. We also need to make vaccines the property of humanity, as the Indian and South African Governments are demanding.