SCIO briefing on scientific research into COVID-19

The State Council Information Office held a press conference on April 27 in Beijing to brief the media about scientific research into COVID-19. April 29, 2020


With regards to the origin of the virus, scientists believe that the novel coronavirus most probably originated in bats from Yunnan province. However, it seems unlikely that the bats flew to Wuhan over such a long distance. Therefore, there are suspicions that the virus could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology during research. As specialists, what is your take on this? Thank you. 

Xi Yanchun:

Another question about the origin of the virus. Let's hear from Dr. Liu Peipei once again, and then our specialists here could add something.

Liu Peipei:

With regards to these conspiracy theories, the scientific community has reached a basic consensus, which is, the possibility of the virus being man-made is very low. Scientists from multiple countries co-signed a statement published in The Lancet elaborating on that. I also notice that a recent report by the WHO responded again to the conspiracy theories. It is generally believed that the possibility of the virus being engineered or leaked from the laboratory is very, very low. Thank you.

Wang Guiqiang:

Thank you for your question. You mentioned just now that bats are highly likely to be the host of the virus. And bats are found flying in every part of the world. Nowadays, infectious diseases know no borders because of such well-developed transportation. The momentum of the fast global spread of infectious diseases has been extremely obvious. People have often spoke of the concept of the world being a "global village." Infectious diseases used to spread locally within specific regions, from specific ecological reservoirs to specific human populations. Now, with such convenient transportation, any infectious disease can spread around the globe in 24 hours.

So why is the world concerned about the prevention and control of infectious diseases? Because its epidemic status has changed. At present, global transportation has become convenient and advanced, meaning any infectious disease can quickly spread worldwide. Thus, as COVID-19 spiraled into a pandemic, it has become difficult to say where the etiology is, which requires a thorough tracing back to the origin. Thank you.

Jin Qi:

Relating this question to previous ones, all of them are asking about tracing the origin of the virus. Here I would like to share my opinion on this topic. Why do we need to trace to the origin? Or, what is the purpose of tracing the virus? From my point of view, one of the main purposes is to find out the source of the pathogen of COVID-19. What will we do after finding the origin? We can formulate targeted strategies for epidemic prevention and control, so as to prevent similar epidemics from harming human society. I think that is one of the main purposes in tracing the origin. However, virus origin tracing is a very difficult scientific issue, as I mentioned previously when answering the question about "patient zero." Have we finished the virus origin tracing for the 1918 influenza pandemic, or AIDS, or the H1N1 flu that broke out in 2009? Scientists all over the world are working on it, but I think it's a difficult problem. Some scientists have suggested it could take decades, even a century. Just now I mentioned the 1918 influenza pandemic, which was a hundred years ago; sometimes we may never get the result. However, we are still working on it, which is important. Therefore, with regards to this issue, Chinese scientists are doing the same thing as scientists all over the world, which is making all efforts to discover the answer. By integrating multiple disciplines, including computational biology, bioinformatics, epidemiology and molecular epidemiology, we can get some clues to interweave into a mutual support network. On the basis of this network, we may finally find the result we're looking for. Thank you.

Xi Yanchun:

I would also like to add that there is a consensus that we need to respect and believe in science. And I don't think it is a responsible attitude for a media outlet or relevant individual to make hasty judgments without any facts. We need to give scientists enough time and respect. I believe that they will help us know more about the virus and prevent and control it more effectively. This will be the last question due to time constraints. 

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