Pundits, media urge science, oppose politization of COVID-19 origin tracing

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, July 28, 2021
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People receive COVID-19 tests at a mobile testing site in Times Square, New York, the United States, on July 20, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Scientists, politicians and media outlets have called for science-based COVID-19 origin tracing and opposed intentions to politicize the issue amid a recent wave of debate stoked up by the U.S. government on COVID-19 origins.

Again, Washington played the "blame game" and questioned the conclusions from the Joint Report of the WHO-convened global study of origins of SARS-CoV-2 released by the World Health Organization at the end of March, based on a joint research with China.

The approach to COVID-19 origin tracing "has to be evidence-based, scientifically based," said Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand's foreign minister, in an interview with Radio New Zealand (RNZ) on Friday.

"We very much rely on the scientific evidence and there needed to be a further investigation... our position remains the same as it was," Mahuta added.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) released a statement on Thursday, denouncing the attempts to politicize the COVID-19 origin tracing.

In the statement, the SACP said virus origin or source tracing is a scientific undertaking, which should be viewed in a science-based, objective and fair manner, conducted with intellectual rigor, and in the interest of advancing global anti-pandemic cooperation.

"The SACP denounces attempts at politicizing scientific research. A part of the attempts involves geographic location naming of viruses or attacks against scientific research because of the countries involved in it," read the statement.

"In this era of pandemics, scientific collaboration across our globe is critical for progress and for the protection of human society. The scientific field of origin or source tracing of viruses is a critical instrument in the campaign against their spread," the statement added.

The scientific findings include the recognition that there are indications that COVID-19 cases took place before December 2019 in various places across the globe, it added.

The SACP believed that the world should commend the role of scientists from China and 10 other countries under the leadership of the World Health Organization in undertaking the research on the scientific field of COVID-19 origin or source tracing. "China has particularly been open to the scientific endeavour," the statement said.

A retest by Italian and Dutch researchers of pre-pandemic blood samples has found that they have coronavirus-linked antibody IgM, Reuters said in a report published Saturday, citing a paper published on July 14 that detailed the results from the retest.

The retest, carried out by researchers from the VisMederi laboratory at the University of Siena and their Dutch counterparts from the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, founded that the oldest sample with IgM dated back to Sept. 3, 2019 in Italy's northeastern region of Veneto.

In November 2020, VisMederi and the National Cancer Institute in Milan (INT) published their study, showing that 11.6 percent of 959 healthy volunteers had developed COVID-19 antibodies well before February 2020 when the first official case was recorded in Italy, with four cases from the study dating back to the first week of October 2019, which means those people had been infected in September 2019.

The study indicated that the virus could have circulated in Italy weeks before it was formally identified in China, Giovanni Apolone, INT scientific director, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The idea that COVID-19 originated in animals should still be considered, Stephen Winchester, a British medical expert, told Xinhua.

As a consultant virologist at Berkshire and Surrey Pathology Services, he said "so I think there's a high likelihood with an emerging virus that actually has come from nature."

Gerardo Lopez Perez, a Mexican epidemiologist, said the United States now again raises the issue of origin tracing mainly out of self-interests.

"Generating a search for guilty right now ... is truly idle, right now what we are looking for are not guilty but solutions," he said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Maldives News Network senior editor Hamdhan Shakeel wrote in an editorial published on Friday that Western countries have attempted to politicize the origin-tracing issue by distorting the facts and shifting the blame onto China.

According to a CGTN Think Tank online opinion poll that is available in several UN official languages including Chinese, English, Russian, French, Spainish and Arabic, 80 percent of global respondents believe that the issue on COVID-19 origin tracing has been politicized.

Meanwhile, data of the survey published on Monday also indicated that 83 percent of netizens support the idea of conducting COVID-19 tracing in multiple countries, with more than 60 percent of netizens who voted on English platforms believing that the most pressing task is to work on "vaccines and medication."

Similar incidents have shown that the origin tracing of virus is far from an easy task, Shakeel said, noting that it took nearly two decades before scientists could identify the patient zero of HIV, and in the case of the Ebola epidemic, scientists have been researching its origin since the 1970s to no avail.

All these prove that origin tracing is a highly scientific work and its politicization will "undoubtedly interfere and obstruct the scientific effort" required to successfully combat the next pandemic as such, Shakeel noted.

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