In a report on its joint mission with China to trace the origins of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was "extremely unlikely" that the virus was released through a laboratory incident. Thirty-four experts from WHO and China conducted research in Wuhan for 28 days to conclude that the infection most probably spread through an intermediate host or through cold/food chain products. This is an edited excerpt of a Xinhua News Agency commentary:
The report practically denies the unfounded speculation that the pandemic was caused by a leak from a laboratory in the city of Wuhan. It is also a repudiation of the lies some Western politicians and pundits have churned out to slander China over the months, and a sobering reminder that more hard work is needed to decode the secrets of the virus.
Now that science has spoken, the world community needs to take it as an opportunity to recognize COVID-19 origin-tracing for what it is: scientific research, not a witch hunt.
Countries need to first settle on a broad consensus that future origin-tracing missions should not be arbitrary probes based on the presumption of guilt. The aim of the missions should be to get to know the virus better and understand how it has evolved, so as to defeat it as early as possible as well as prevent future outbreaks.
Since the start of the pandemic, science and common sense have been wrestling with conspiracy theories and lies. And the battle for truth continues. It is unfortunate to see that some anti-China politicians and biased media outlets in the West are still trying to challenge the authoritativeness of the WHO report, peddle their lies about China and manipulate public opinion.
The world community should realize that it is those despicable political tricks that have assaulted facts and science, fostered misinformation and prejudice, and jeopardized trust and solidarity among nations. As a result, the tough battle against COVID-19 has been made even tougher.
However, compared with COVID-19, the political viruses those politicians and press have incubated and spread are deadlier. As COVID-19 origin-tracing is still underway, the international community should also trace the origin of these political viruses to expose the perpetrators and hold them accountable.
While placing science front and center, the origin-tracing work also needs time, patience from the general public, and perhaps luck. And sometimes even with these, such complicated quests might still end up with no definitive conclusions. History abounds in such examples. Scientists are still unable to say exactly where many infectious diseases in the past, such as AIDS and the 1918 influenza, originated.
One needs to keep an open mind to solve the coronavirus puzzle scientifically. Targeting one single country is not helpful in research.
It must be emphasized that origin-tracing is a serious scientific endeavor. China was the first country to report COVID-19 infections. That does not mean patient zero was in China. It has been widely reported that a series of studies done in various countries found traces of the coronavirus elsewhere in the world long before the epidemic broke out in China. Therefore, similar WHO origin-tracing missions should be conducted in more countries and regions worldwide.
There is still a long road ahead to get to the bottom of the virus. Vanquishing political viruses and letting science prevail will bring us closer to the truth.
(Print Edition Title: COVID-19 Origin-Tracing Should Be About Science, Not Politics)
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