Politicizing COVID-19 origins could obstruct efforts to prevent future epidemics, says expert

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, August 8, 2021
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Political interests should not interfere with efforts to uncover the origins of COVID-19, valuable work which could help prevent future epidemics, an epidemiologist has said.

In a video call with Xinhua, public health specialist Elena Reyes Rueda criticized "petty" interests that politicize the issue to discredit China.

"China has made great contributions to research in epidemiology, viruses and genetics, and I think it has done well to the best of its ability," said Reyes.

Unfortunately, there have been acts of "politicization, discrimination-seeking, and of making China appear as if it is not collaborating," she noted, warning of political biases and disinformation, which obstructs the fight against the pandemic.

The enemy is the virus, which is not about "race, color, sex, or nationality," and the outbreaks will only worsen if countries "do not contribute to the research and development of new public health policies," said Reyes.

The specialist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico shared the broad consensus of the international scientific and medical community in agreeing with the conclusion of a World Health Organization-China joint study, which found it "extremely unlikely" that the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory, as the U.S. government has claimed.

Furthermore, China was one of the first countries to cooperate with the WHO in investigating the origins of the virus, she said.

"China's show of support for other countries is noteworthy ... it is important to mention that China is one of the countries that has invested the most in technological and biotechnological research," she said.

Origin-tracing is a complex scientific undertaking, so there should be more collaboration between governments to successfully identify the virus' hosts and the routes of transmission, she added.

"Tracing will allow us to learn more about viruses and how they resist environmental changes," the expert said.

While COVID-19 took all governments by surprise and exposed the weaknesses of healthcare systems in most countries, it was "a window of opportunity" for research and development of new methodologies that can better prevent future outbreaks and protect human health, she said.

Reyes, who has been studying COVID-19 for more than a year, participated in Mexico's investigation into the origin of the H1N1 flu virus, which emerged in 2009.

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