- Undoubtedly, the majority of the global community will never forget the year 2020 when we first heard about the novel coronavirus – COVID-19 – and the subsequent mayhem the dreaded virus left behind in the form of unmitigated destructions. It’s nothing short of a catastrophic unfolding of events that humankind had to endure for a long duration of time. Forget about the economic meltdown of every country around the world, but the loss of precious lives and the property of millions cannot be forgotten in a jiffy. The once-in-a-century pandemic created such havoc around the world that even now the majority of people are trying to find their feet from the devasting aftereffects. The horrible memories are bound to send a chilling shiver down the spine even now.
- None of the families can lay claim that they were untouched by the vagaries of the pandemic and the induced trials, tribulations, and challenges galore. The psychologically traumatic mauling owing to the virus’s debilitating effects cannot be erased. As you are aware, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the global community has rightfully been questioning the origin of the virus but answers appear to be elusive. Unsubstantiated claims about the virus originating from China have been making news for the last three years. In this context, the WHO chief is right in arguing that tracing the origins of Covid is not just a scientific but also a moral imperative. This comes as the US Energy Department is reported to have assessed how the pandemic broke out.
- The assessment says that the pandemic had likely been caused by an unintentional Chinese lab leak. The lab leak theory has persisted despite some scientists positing that the novel virus had naturally jumped from animals to humans. The main reason for this state of unknowability is China’s stonewalling of a thorough Covid-origin investigation. Recall that China had allowed a WHO team to visit the country in early 2021 for an investigation. But the visiting team was neither allowed to freely travel and interview witnesses nor given access to raw patient data from early cases in Wuhan – the Chinese city thought to be ground zero of the pandemic. The visit’s report was inconclusive. Also, China flatly refused when WHO proposed a further investigation.
- This only fuelled speculation that Beijing was hiding something, especially at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was said to be conducting a gain of function research on coronaviruses. Experiments that were reportedly also funded by the US. If the lab leak theory is true, Covid would be a man-made disaster of epic proportions. Therefore, two things are important. First, there must be an international consensus on banning all gain-of-function research. The dangers of such experiments far outweigh the benefits. These modified viruses are essentially deadly bioweapons. Second, investigations into the origins of Covid must continue – to find the truth and to better prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. The question of Beijing’s complicity remains unresolved.