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(Source: AP)

China Froze COVID-19 Origin Tracing, Says a New Investigative Report

A new report from AP found “the Chinese government froze meaningful efforts to trace the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, despite publicly declaring it supported an open scientific inquiry.” According to materials obtained by AP “crucial initial efforts were hindered by bureaucrats in Wuhan trying to avoid blame who misled the central government; the central government, which silenced Chinese scientists and subjected visiting U.N. officials to stage-managed tours; and the World Health Organization itself, which may have compromised early opportunities to gather critical information.”

Here are excerpts from the AP report:

As early as Jan. 6, 2020, health officials in Beijing closed the lab of a Chinese scientist who sequenced the virus and barred researchers from working with him.

 Scientists warn the willful blindness over coronavirus’ origins leaves the world vulnerable to another outbreak, potentially undermining pandemic treaty talks coordinated by the World Health Organization set to culminate in May.

 At the heart of the question is whether the virus jumped from an animal or came from a laboratory accident.

 Unlike in the U.S., there is virtually no public debate in China about whether the virus came from nature or from a lab leak. In fact, there is little public discussion at all about the source of the disease, first detected in the central city of Wuhan.

 Chinese scientists are still under heavy pressure, according to 10 researchers and health officials. Researchers who published papers on the coronavirus ran into trouble with Chinese authorities. Others were barred from travel abroad for conferences and WHO meetings. Gao, the then-director of the China CDC, was investigated after U.S. President Joe Biden ordered a review of COVID-19 data, and again after giving interviews on the virus origins.

 New evidence is treated with suspicion. In March 2023, scientists announced that genetic material collected from the market showed raccoon dog DNA mixed with COVID-19 in early 2020, data that WHO said should have been publicly shared years before. The findings were posted, then removed by Chinese researchers with little explanation.

 The head of the China CDC Institute of Viral Disease was forced to retire over the release of the market data, according to a former China CDC official who declined to be named to speak on a sensitive topic.

 “It has to do with the origins, so they’re still worried,” the former official said. “If you try and get to the bottom of it, what if it turns out to be from China?”

 Other scientists note that any animal from which the virus may have originally jumped has long since disappeared.

 “There was a chance for China to cooperate with WHO and do some animal sampling studies that might have answered the question,” said Tulane University’s Garry. “The trail to find the source has now gone cold.”

 For More:
Toxic: How the search for the origins of COVID-19 turned politically poisonous