COVID created in US lab, Chinese media suggest

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It is now almost universally accepted that the first cases of the global COVID-19 virus appeared in Wuhan, China. While a minority, including some officials in President Donald Trump’s administration, suggested that the virus had escaped from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the conventional explanation has been that the virus has emerged into a “wet market” selling fresh meat and producing produce, as they are often breeding grounds for disease. Other epidemics, including the SARS epidemic in China in November 2002, have been awarded to similar contracts.

Either explanation – an artificial virus leak or a natural evolution of an unhygienic wet market – means that the Chinese government is to some extent responsible for the global pandemic. In disputing this characterization, Chinese news organizations have provided their own theories, including that the virus secretly escaped from a US military installation in Fort Detrick, Maryland. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry suggested the facility could have harbored the virus, given its alleged security holes in the past.

The World time, a Chinese state newspaper, amplified the spokesperson’s claim. According to the outlet, more than 25 million Chinese citizens have signed an online petition calling for an investigation into Fort Detrick.

To be clear, there is absolutely no evidence that Fort Detrick has anything to do with the emergence of the virus in Wuhan. Other conspiracy theories regarding the origin of the virus have been amplified on the Chinese internet in the past, although they have generally not been taken seriously outside the country.

It’s also worth noting that in the past, the Chinese government has vigorously denied the theory of lab leaks, claiming that the virus’s genome indicated that it evolved naturally rather than artificially. In this sense, the spokesperson’s call for an investigation may not be in good faith; instead, it could be understood as encouraging a redirect from an investigation at the Wuhan Institute of Virology to an investigation at a US laboratory.

Investigating the origins of the virus could be key to preventing a future pandemic, but tensions between the United States and China, which predate the COVID-19 pandemic, have made it difficult for the two countries to cooperate in the area of ​​disease control. Beijing has broadly banned the World Health Organization from investigating China, insisting it will conduct its own internal investigation into the emergence and spread of the virus.

Trevor Filseth is a current affairs and foreign affairs writer for the National interest.

Image: Reuters


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