Why We Might Not Know If COVID Caused a Wuhan Lab Leak • Protecting Children’s Health

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Early in this century, after SARS, and at a time when China began to allow more students and scientists to study abroad, cooperation and exchange between American and Chinese scientists blossomed.

Many of China’s leading scientists today teach in the West. Among them were George Gao, head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China, who trains and teaches at Oxford and Harvard, and Shi Zhengli, who manages the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and received his Ph.D. in France.

Many, like Gao, spent more than a decade abroad before returning to China for top -notch jobs and, often, prominent positions and high salaries. They are good at their work in banking, their science is highly respected and the leading scientists in America are well known to them. They befriended their American counterparts, as is clear from Anthony Fauci’s email letters with Gao as the pandemic erupted, recently released by request of the Freedom of Information Act.

But in the early part of what became a world crisis, when there was limited and convincing information coming out of China about the novel’s transfer coronavirus and no matter how big the intrusion into the home, the misconception among America’s leading scientists has led some to think the spread of the virus might not be bad.

Here’s the problem: Chinese scientists are famous scientists, but they work for an authoritarian organization where politics, not facts, always comes first. If the information they know or discover makes China bad, it’s dangerous to tell it – especially to foreign colleagues, especially in public, and often, even to their friends or family.

That’s probably familiar after Donald Trump’s presidency, where he has always mocked and sidelined experts like Fauci. But the risk for Chinese scientists is even worse: losing your job and your child’s career prospects, police visits, false charges, even imprisonment.

As the country’s leader Xi Jinping, reminded his scientists in a speech last year: “Science has no boundaries, but scientists have a homeland.”

Every Chinese citizen knows how to interpret that statement, and I know it too: When I was a reporter in Beijing, I knew Dr. Gao Yaojie, who exposed an HIV / AIDS epidemic in rural China as a result of unclean blood. collection methods, some state -run.

He was a valuable source for a series of articles I wrote on the opening tragedy, which was almost entirely adult population in poor farming villages are already dying, without treatment and left AIDS orphans. Dr. Gao (unrelated to George Gao) is taken by Law and Hillary Clinton and won international human rights awards for saving perhaps tens of thousands of lives and ending dangerous acts.

But in China, the same job is to spend Gao’s retirement under house arrest, which is often followed up and threatened by local officials for humiliating China. He fled China in 2009 and obtained US political asylum. And that was at a time when China was less automatic and more open than it is today.

President Joe Biden has appoints security agencies to investigate the lab leak theory – to find out if SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, came out of the Wuhan lab or from nature. But if international scientific analysts are hoping to find a log or find a whistleblower, it’s unlikely to happen.

That different information will not be disclosed, even to many American friends and Chinese science partners Chinese scientists, with whom the U.S. The Wuhan lab received more than half a million dollars on funding coming from the National Institutes of Health and working with many American scientists.

Mistakes occur in science. Pathogens release good labs inside, and not because people are bad. Because, for example, the technician doing the work at the bank forgot an important step or, in a hurry to get home, was fired – just a second.

Or, for example, if scientists who collect bat samples in remote caves are more comfortable in a dangerous environment – because they’ve been through there many times without a problem and squeezing the biohazard suit and mascara. So, they remove the face mask much earlier than they come out.

If that happens, you need to immediately identify the fault in order to inflict damage. But that can’t be done by Chinese scientists, not even in public. When, in late December 2019, Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist working at one of Wuhan’s main hospitals, expressed his concerns to colleagues about patients dying from a strange new virus, he was punished and said the police to “stop making untrue comments” and investigate for “spreading rumors.” He died at COVID a few weeks ago.

In China today, it is dangerous to say what you know if it challenges the official government account. The people who took part in the protests on June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square, which were violently put down by the Chinese military, did not even tell their children about the bloody day when hundreds, and probably thousands, were killed.

Kai Strittmatter, a longtime Chinese correspondent for one of Germany’s most popular newspapers, Terry Gross was told by NPR:

“Yeah, this generation, they know it all, but they’re afraid to tell their kids. Because, you know, what would you do if your kid at school suddenly told the teacher and asked the teacher. about the Tiananmen massacre? ”

We probably don’t know if the novel coronavirus came out of a lab or from animal-to-human transmission from a wild animal at one of Wuhan’s live markets, as first suggested by the Chinese. . And that’s exactly the knowledge we really need to prevent the next pandemic, because the solutions are so different.

If the former assumption is proven true, U.S. scientists should ensure that cooperation with their Chinese partners involves full transparency-access to log books, internal reports, and all. If later, China should fully enforce a ban on the sale of exotic animals (the “intermediate host” that carries the virus) in wet markets, a ban it promised after the original came out. that SARS virus there. from a cat civet almost two decades ago. But the Chinese government’s suppression of its scientists makes it impossible for us to know the truth now-or ever.

Originally published on Kaiser Health News.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.

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