Wuhan just one piece in pandemic jigsaw: China Daily editorial

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – It is indeed necessary and important to trace the origin of the novel coronavirus outbreak if only to effectively prevent a similar pandemic in the future.

That explains why China is supporting and closely cooperating with the World Health Organisation expert team’s research in Wuhan, where a cluster of Covid-19 cases first brought the outbreak of the hitherto unknown coronavirus to light.

However, the ongoing field study in Wuhan is just the beginning of the scientific search for where and how the virus first jumped to humans and how it made its way all over the world and finally plunged the whole planet into the ongoing pandemic.

Historical records suggest that the place where an epidemic was first reported might not necessarily be the birthplace of the virus. The search for the origin of a contagious pathogen takes time as its transmission paths encompass multiple locations.

An increasing amount of evidence has been reported indicating that the novel coronavirus existed in other countries such as the United States, Italy and Spain long before the outbreak was identified in China in January 2020.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the Covid-19 was likely in the US as early as mid-December 2019, weeks before the virus was first identified in China.

Spanish virologists also found traces of the virus in a sample of Barcelona waste water collected in May 2019. All these point to the fact that the deadly pathogen was quite probably spreading around the world much earlier than previously thought.

The work to search for the origin of the virus is therefore much more complicated than might be expected. It is a scientific mission that is meant to find the origin of the pathogen, rather than a political task to find someone to blame. So field studies should also be conducted in other countries.

As described by a WHO official, the search for the origin of the virus is a “big jigsaw puzzle”. It is very likely scientists will spend years trying to find where the virus first jumped to humans, even then they may not be successful.

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WHO teams of experts have come to China three times to conduct field studies and China has always been open and transparent about what it has learnt about the virus.

Any move to politicise the WHO’s ongoing field study in China and even badmouthing China for the outbreak or pointing an accusing finger at China for the pandemic will only do a disservice to the scientific efforts to trace the origin of the virus and the global fight against the pandemic.

China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media titles.

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