COVID-19 Origins: A Scientific And Political Quagmire

COVID-19 Origins: A Scientific And Political Quagmire

As they deal with the pandemic, people want to know why, how, and where it came from.

tippinsights Editorial Board

The world is dealing with a pandemic.

That is the only statement that almost everyone can agree on. All questions leading up to and arising from it are up for debate and contention.

Questions regarding the origin of the disease, its causes, and methods to deal with it should have primarily remained in the domain of science and scientists. Unfortunately, from the outset, those questions were hijacked by the political sphere and aligned with political affiliations and ideologies.

The SARS-CoV-2 infections or Covid-19 cases were first detected in the Wuhan province, in China. There is much to suggest that Beijing grossly underreported and misinformed the world about the virus's transmissibility and virulence. Already grappling with a trust deficit on the geopolitical stage, China was caught firmly on the back foot.

Theories that Chinese biologists had engineered the virus and unleashed it on the unwitting world population angered Beijing and further undermined China's position and trustworthiness on the world stage. Beijing was compelled to counter the theories with some of their own. They pointed to the wet market as a place of origin and even blamed contaminated frozen food, further muddying the waters.

Many in the scientific community urge governments and global organizations to refrain from a blame game and hasty conclusions. It is possible that the virus has a natural origin and was transmitted from an animal to humans.

But, proponents of the lab-leak theory highlight that no intermediate host animal has been identified, though 80,000 animals have been tested since the pandemic began. While that is a considerable number, biologists understand that the figure represents only a tiny fraction of the animal population in China.

Virologists also caution that it often takes years to complete origin investigations. They point out that "To date, a complete Ebola virus has never been isolated from an animal in the region where the world's largest outbreak occurred between 2013 and 2016."

It is premature to rule out any possibilities.

The fact remains that an infection very similar to Covid-19 was first detected eight years ago in miners working in a bat-infested, abandoned copper mine in the Yunan province. On record, one of the most advanced bio-labs in the country, Wuhan Institute of Virology, was indeed studying viruses from the SARS family. Intelligence reports suggest that three people working in the lab sought medical treatment for symptoms of Covid-19 weeks before news of the first Covid-19 clusters emerged.

Further, it is known that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducting "gain of function" research, i.e., the scientists were altering the virus, 'speeding up its evolution,' if you will, in order to study it. This type of research has raised moral and ethical questions in the past. Such research was banned in the U.S. by the Obama administration but resumed under the previous administration. As has come to light, U.S. funds did find their way to the Wuhan lab to further the research. It must also be noted that "gain of function" research is legal in many parts of the world.

Very few subscribe to the theory that the virus was deliberately leaked to the population. A majority believe that if indeed the virus did emerge from a lab, it was an accidental leak. Those familiar with the environs know that it is nearly impossible to ensure airtight lab containment at all times despite safety protocols. The high possibility of accidental leaks and infections is what prompted the moratorium on such research in America.

Again, China's policy of reticence and secrecy, its muffled press, its crackdown on its citizens' freedoms all erode its credibility and reliability. In return, Beijing's mistrust of the West and the various international organizations it considers aligned to the West impede impartial investigations.

Unfortunately, the world at large has paid the price for the politicization of this issue. Instead of uniting to fight a common enemy, largely countries grappled alone with the unknown disease.  Vaccination has become a partisan issue, keeping herd immunity beyond the reach of most societies.

It is imperative that the origin of the disease, never before been seen in humans, be brought to light. Not just to assign blame but primarily to put in place protocols and procedures that will prevent such an event from repeating itself.

Science is based on facts and evidence. All theories must be impartially investigated and proven or disproven. Personal preferences or geopolitical affiliations are not the yardsticks here. People want answers to Why, How and from Where, as they grapple with the consequences of a pandemic.


TIPP Takes

Taiwan Says Nearly 60 China Warplanes Enter Defense Zone Over 2 Days

Chinese warplanes

Nearly 60 Chinese warplanes have entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone over two days, including 38 on Friday, a one-day record since the self-governed island began disclosing relevant information in September.

A total of 20 Chinese military planes, such as fighter jets and bombers, entered the area on Saturday, it said.


N.Korea Accuses U.N. Security Council Of Double Standards Over Missile Test

North Korea

The Council met behind closed doors on October 1 upon requests from the United States and other countries over North Korea's missile launches

North Korea said on October 3 that the United Nations Security Council applied double standards to military activities among U.N. member states in response to international condemnation of its recent missile tests.

The UNSC meeting took place a day after Pyongyang launched a newly developed anti-aircraft missile, the latest in a series of recent weapons tests that included a previously unseen hypersonic missile, ballistic missiles, and a cruise missile with potential nuclear capabilities.

The North Korean foreign ministry described the UNSC meeting as an "open ignorance of and wanton encroachment" on its sovereignty, as well as a "serious intolerable provocation."

North Korea accused the Council of applying double standards by remaining silent about joint military exercises and weapons tests with allies while criticizing the North's "self-defense" activities.


Thousands In Brazil Protest Bolsonaro, Seek His Impeachment

Brazil Protests

The protest targeted Mr. Bolsonaro for his handling of the pandemic and inflation in food prices

With Brazil's presidential election one year away, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched on October 2 in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and dozens of other cities around the country to protest President Jair Bolsonaro and call for his impeachment over his government's handling of the pandemic.

The protests, smaller than those in support of Mr. Bolsonaro last September 7, were promoted by leftist parties and some union movements linked to the former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's Worker's Party.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who is not vaccinated and doesn't usually wear a mask, has underestimated the severity of the virus and promoted crowds during the pandemic.

Some 597,000 have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, a country of 212 million people.

Demonstrators also protested surging inflation in mainstays like food and electricity.


How Worried Should We Be About Myocarditis?

Myocarditis

A faulty study that overstated the risks has been withdrawn — but only after it was shared widely on social media.

Some people have been concerned about the risk of myocarditis and heart muscle inflammation in young people.

The study from the Ottawa Heart Institute suggested that the risks of myocarditis were much higher than expected, though still relatively low. The researchers had calculated that 32,379 vaccine doses had been administered during the two-month study period, which was wrong by over 800,000 doses. The real risk was closer to three cases per 100,000 people.

This study has been withdrawn so that the numbers can be corrected. But it has already been shared widely on social media and will likely live forever on the internet. Some people have already used this data to scare parents into reconsidering vaccination.

COVID-19 is by far the greater threat, with the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report estimating COVID caused 122 excess cases of myocarditis per 100,000 infections, which is far more than any estimated post-vaccination. It is also worth noting that the cases of myocarditis post-vaccination were generally mild, resolved quickly, and did not seem to cause any major heart damage.

Most people agree that fear of myocarditis should not dissuade anyone from being vaccinated. The risk is very, very low, and COVID-19 is much, much worse.

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