US and Chinese politicians rush in where experts fear to tread

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    Source : SCMP

    While the world’s leading scientists do not know for sure the origin of the coronavirus behind the Covid-19 pandemic, some Chinese officials and US politicians appear to know better.

    Medical experts around the world have been trying for months to confirm the origin of the virus that has infected nearly 130,000 people and claimed more than 5,000 lives.

    But scientists have yet to track down “patient zero” of the outbreak or confirm conclusively that the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, linked to 27 of the 41 first reported cases, was the source of the virus.

    A study published by the Hubei Centres for Disease Prevention and Control this week analysing its genomic sequences said the market may have promoted its spread, but the researchers could not determine whether it had originated from there or what intermediate hosts may have transmitted the virus to humans.

    But while this remains an open question for scientists, that has not stopped politicians from weighing in with unverified theories.

    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian became the latest to promote a conspiracy with a series of tweets late on Thursday and early Friday suggesting that the virus may have been spread by the United States military.

    Zhao promoted a Canadian conspiracy website making the claim and wrote: “When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

    The claims were apparently linked to the US Army’s participation in the international Military World Games held in Wuhan in October, which featured teams from more than 100 countries.

    While Zhao’s tweets quickly drew tens of thousands of responses from Chinese internet users, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, was equivocal when asked at a Friday press briefing if the statements reflected Beijing’s official stance.

    “You wonder if Zhao’s opinions represent those of the Chinese government,” Geng said. “I think you first should ask if remarks by certain US senior officials that vilify China represent the official stance of the US government.”

    “There are many opinions about the origin of the virus in the international community, including in the US, but the Chinese side believes that this is a science question that requires professional and scientific opinions.”

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