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Latest Wuhan report does not settle the Covid origin question

A piece published in Science on Thursday claims to have shifted the balance of probability to SARS-CoV-2 having emerged into the human population through contamination from infected bats at the Wuhan food market in December 2019.

 

Our state broadcaster has published what seems to be a greatly simplified short piece, largely taken from the New York Times via AFP. This includes a welcome for the findings from Peter Daszak whose company EcoHealth was involved in controversial research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and who along with Dr. Anthony Fauci has a keen personal interest in shoring up the animal origin theory that has come under strong questioning over the past six months.

While the RTÉ extract quotes the piece’s author Michael Worobey on the new evidence which he claims “tips the scales towards the virus having originated in an animal,” it by no means settles the issue. That is apparent even from the full NYT piece which concludes with quotes from Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University who describes Worobey’s theory as “reasonable a hypothesis as any,” but that he doesn’t believe that the truth will ever be known given the murkiness of the case.

Alina Chan of the Broad Institute was even more fortright in her reference to earlier cases from November 2019, and the fact that “there are errors in the WHO-China report.” Chan’s point is crucial as the Wuhan market bat origin theory rests on the claim that the first cases date from December.

Other evidence including that referred to in the report commissioned by the Biden administration and compiled by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence clearly stands over the belief that the first known cases date to “no later than November 2019.”

Some researchers are even more strongly convinced with regard to the earlier origin.  A University of Kent team concluded that the virus may have emerged in October 2019, but cited November 17 as the most likely date of origin. The optimal linear estimation model designed by Dr. David Roberts traced back the likely origin from the first cases identified outside of China; in Japan on January 3, 2020, Spain on January 12 and in the United States on January 16.

There have been other reports that have claimed that the virus was present in countries other than China in December 2019. The Kent University study corroborates an earlier report from March 2020 also dating the first case to November 17, concerning a 55 year old man in Hubei.

The US intelligence report, as covered by Gript and ignored by many other Irish media outlets, can be read and the evidence assessed. The same holds for robust scientific reports on the issues which have gained credence despite a sustained and campaign by Daszak and others to suppress them. Daszak was criticised earlier in the year by the American National Institutes for Health for his company EcoHealth having breached the terms of its grant award in its investigation into bat coronaviruses.

Interestingly, the WHO itself – which is still reeling from the claim that its inquiry was compromised by the intervention of Daszak and others and the proven closure to researchers of possibly vital evidence at Wuhan – has responded cautiously to the Science piece. A spokesperson for the WHO stated that it could not comment on new theories regarding the emergence of Covid as its researchers had only been given limited access to data. It no longer rules out an earlier date.

As we have stated previously, there is no zero-sum game between the Chinese having deliberately created the virus on the one hand, and it having been transmitted to humans via an infected bat. The American intelligence report rules out the virus having come about as a consequence of the development of bioweaponry.

However, it does cite a date “no later than November 2019” for the first “small scale exposure” to the virus, and also notes the opinion of some intelligence agencies that Covid-19 escaped from the Wuhan Institute through an accidental leak. The summary of that report can be accessed here.

So, the question of the origins, or indeed the date of the emergence, of Covid is by no means settled. It will be interesting to assess the reaction over the following days to the Science piece.

It is also worth noting that today’s English language edition of the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily makes no reference to the latest report. That might appear odd, given that Western apologists for the regime regard all of the above as key to defending its reputation, that is not how it appears in Beijing.

The CPC prefers of course that no one in the west believes that Covid-19 originated in anything other than an infected bat sold in the Wuhan market, and that the first cases were only identified in December. However, that is not what it is telling either its own population nor the peoples of those underdeveloped countries where it is rapidly replacing the United States as the key global economic and political power.

There, the line is that Covid-19 came about as the consequence of American military research and that it was deliberately released into the Chinese population, probably during the world military games held in Wuhan in late October 2019. Someday, perhaps, the western purveyors of Chinese propaganda – whether through their own naivety or self interest – will be regarded with the same contempt as those who retailed the myths and falsehoods of Stalin and Hitler.

If there is anyone still about who remembers all of this of course…

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