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U.S. to launch 90-day review into COVID-19 origins – Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii 2021-06-09 02:05:00 –

Washington >> Once rejected by public health experts and senior government officials, the hypothesis that COVID-19 was accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory is now being scrutinized under a new U.S. investigation. ..

According to experts, a 90-day review ordered by President Joe Biden on May 26 urges US intelligence agencies to gather more information and review what they already have. Deaf. Former State Department officials under President Donald Trump have publicly insisted on further investigation into the origin of the virus, as well as scientists and the World Health Organization.

Many scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, say they still believe that the virus was most likely to occur in nature and most likely to have jumped from animals to humans. Virus researchers have not publicly identified significant new scientific evidence that may increase the likelihood of the Labreak hypothesis.

Virologists also say that a definitive answer to the origin of the virus is unlikely to be possible within 90 days. Complete confirmation of the origin and pathway of past viruses, such as the first SARS and HIV / AIDS. The work took years and decades.

Let’s take a look at what we know about US investigations into viruses.

What are intelligence agencies reviewing?

Biden ordered a review of what the White House said was “two possible scenarios,” the first findings leading to animal-to-human transmission or laboratory leaks. Two of the 18-member intelligence agencies are leaning towards the hypothesis of transmission in nature, according to the statement. Another institution is leaning towards lab leaks.

One of the new hottest documents is the State Department fact sheet issued during the last few days of the Trump administration. According to the memo, the United States believes that three researchers sought treatment for respiratory illness at the Wuhan Institute of Veterinary Medicine in China in November 2019. Chinese people go to the hospital regularly for daily care, not primary care doctors.

The memo also points to a “feature acquisition” study (which, in theory, could increase the lethality or infectivity of the virus), allegedly conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Veterans Affairs with US support. .. However, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, has categorically denied that the United States has supported the “feature acquisition” study of the coronavirus in Wuhan.

David Faith, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific in the Trump administration, said he supported the strengthening of the review requested by Mr. Biden. “The implied statement in the president’s statement is that there is more to analyze and collect than what has been analyzed or collected so far,” Faith said.

The Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

Is China Interfering with the Investigation?

The White House statement criticized China for its lack of transparency, reflecting previous criticisms by Democrats and Republicans. The White House said, “We have to send inspectors to the scene in these early months. , Always hindering investigations into the source of COVID-19. “

The Associated Press reported on China’s intervention in the World Health Organization’s virus investigation and incitement to online conspiracy theories. China has also deported journalists and silenced whistleblowers and other whistleblowers in recent years. I have been imprisoned or imprisoned.

Lack of transparency in China is an important and well-known issue. But by itself, it does not indicate that something specific is hidden.

“The problem is that making that announcement (Biden’s request for investigation) in a highly political environment makes it even less likely that China will cooperate in efforts to locate the origin of the virus,” the Council on Foreign Relations said. Global health in.

What do scientists believe in the origin of the virus?

The most compelling argument for investigating a potential leak in the lab is not the new solid evidence, but the fact that another route of virus spread is 100% unidentified.

“It’s still likely that the virus came from wildlife depots,” said Arinjay Banerjee, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Agency in Saskatchewan, Canada. He said that spillover events when the virus jumps from animals to humans are common in nature, and scientists are two similar betacoronaviruses that evolved in bats and caused epidemics when humans were infected. He pointed out the fact that he already knew SARS1 and MERS.

However, the case is not completely closed. “It’s possible, it’s possible,” Banersey said. “No one has identified a virus that is 100% identical to the animal’s SARS-CoV-2, so there is still room for researchers to ask about other possibilities.”

How long does it take to determine the origin of the virus?

Determining the origin of a virus with 100% certainty is often not quick, easy, and not always possible.

For example, scientists have not identified the source of smallpox until it has been eradicated by a global vaccination program.

For severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a disease caused by betacoronaviruses such as the current coronavirus, researchers first identified the virus in February 2003. Live animal market in Guangdong, China. But only in 2017, researchers determined that the probably original source of the virus was a bat cave in Yunnan, China.

How important is it to understand the origin?

From a scientific point of view, researchers are always keen to better understand how the disease evolves. From a public health perspective, when the virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, discovering its origin is less important to strategies for containing the disease.

Deborah Serigson, an environmental and public health expert at Villanova University, said, “When human-to-human transmission becomes commonplace, source issues and disease control issues are not the same.

Republicans have accused China and called for further investigation into potential leaks in the lab as part of a broader effort to justify Mr. Trump’s response to the pandemic. Nearly 600,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, the highest number of casualties in any country.

What will happen in 90 days?

Many scientists warn that a 90-day study is unlikely to give a definitive new answer.

“We rarely get’smoke guns’,” said Stephen Morse, a disease researcher at Columbia University. “Even in the best of circumstances, certainty is rarely obtained and there is only some possibility.”

Findings can be politically explosive, especially when new evidence emerges that supports or rejects zoonotic diseases or the Labolique theory. And failure to reach a definitive conclusion is almost inevitable after 90 days of review, and could give courage to Trump’s supporters and opponents, as well as those who infuriated conspiracy theorists. There is.

Meanwhile, experts such as Council on Foreign Relations Huang believe that China could simply intensify the crackdown, adding another complexity to the already tense relationship. It is likely that this will make it even more difficult to draw concessions from China so that another team can visit Wuhan or have free access to investigations in Wuhan. “



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