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Uphold Science-based Origin-tracing and Oppose Political Manipulation

As variants of COVID-19 are now triggering new waves of infections around the world, the international community needs to join hands to fight against the pandemic with science. However, instead of focusing on addressing its increasingly severe COVID-19 situation back home, the United States indulges in political manipulation and masterminds the so-called WHO's work plan on the second-phase origins study and mouths fallacies such as the so-called theory of a lab leak. Many countries including China have clearly stated their position in this regard: this so-called plan does not comply with the resolution of the 73rd World Health Assembly(WHA), and is inconsistent with the conclusions and recommendations of the WHO-China joint mission report. The plan was heavily disrupted by politicization and was a document that lost scientific principles and objectiveness, and lacked a spirit of cooperation.

Political manipulation must be opposed in origin-tracing. Origin-tracing is a serious scientific issue. Politics shall never be allowed to be placed before science. Political interests cannot be above people’s lives and health. The US openly called COVID-19 the “Wuhan Virus” last year and withdrew from WHO. From the very beginning, the US has tried to politicize the pandemic, stigmatize the virus, and use origin-tracing as a tool and it is still doing so. It even turns a blind eye to the hard work of scientists by resorting to the intelligence community to conduct origin-tracing and hype up the so-called lab- leak theory with the presumption of guilt.

US motives are obvious to all: to evade the responsibility of its incompetence to fight the virus and achieve the political goal of discrediting and suppressing other countries. Due to the political manipulation and pressure imposed by the United States, the Phase II origin study plan introduced not long ago was not drafted in a transparent manner. The plan obviously deviated from an objective, neutral position because the opinions and suggestions of WHO’s member states were not included. The plan was not fully and extensively negotiated among member states. In the tough global fight against the COVID-19, the United States turns a blind eye to science, uses political tricks to manipulate origin-tracing of the virus, and advances the narratives of “presumption of guilt”. This is an irresponsible act and will further undermine the atmosphere of global cooperation on origin-tracing.

The spirit of science must be held in origin-tracing. It is an arduous task for the international scientific community to explore the origin, transmission and evolution of the raging COVID-19. It is a complex process to collect evidence in a scientific way, and a wealth of biological information and epidemiological evidence is required to establish a mutually supporting evidence chain. This is a time-consuming process fraught with uncertainties. In order to locate the most likely origin of the virus, efforts need to be made in the search for early cases, molecular epidemiology, animal (intermediate) host introduction, among others, in many countries and regions worldwide under the guidance of science.

For some time, more and more cases of COVID-19 have been reported in multiple locations around the world. In the United States alone, COVID-19 infections occurred in at least five states earlier than the time when the first confirmed case was officially reported. A host of studies show that traces of the virus appeared in the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Brazil and other countries earlier than the first case in Wuhan, proving once again that COVID-19 origin-tracing is a complex scientific issue, and should be carried out by the international scientific community in a cooperative manner with a global perspective.

Conclusions and recommendations of authoritative reports should be respected in origin-tracing. China has always kept an open mind towards international cooperation in origin-tracing. China twice invited WHO experts to China to conduct joint research on origin-tracing and put in tremendous efforts to this end. The experts went wherever they wanted to go and met all the people they wanted to meet. After a 28-day field visit to China at the beginning of this year, the WHO-China joint expert group composed of 34 experts from multiple countries issued a joint report in March this year, with the scientific conclusion that “it is extremely unlikely that a laboratory leak caused the first COVID-19 cases”. It also put forward important suggestions such as “searching for possible early cases worldwide” and “studying the possibility of cold chain transmission of the virus.”

The conclusion of the report on the origin of the virus is scientific, objective and authoritative based on a wealth of serious and meticulous research work by Chinese and foreign experts. It has been recognized by the international community and the scientific community, and established authoritatively that there is already a scientific conclusion to the origin-tracing study of the COVID-19 in China. This conclusion should be an important foundation based on which subsequent global origin-tracing efforts should be carried out. As the first phase of research has already concluded and clear conclusions have been drawn, a second phase in China is apparently redundant and uncalled for.

The voice of justice from the international community should be heard in origin-tracing. The purpose of tracing the origin of COVID-19 is to find effective measures to prevent similar epidemics, as opposed to blame a certain country and still less to divide the international community. Attempts and acts to stigmatize other countries using the virus and politicize origin-tracing will get nowhere. They will only be resolutely opposed by the international community. To date, nearly 60 countries wrote to WHO to uphold the results of the first stage of origin-tracing and oppose politicizing origin-tracing.

We are pleased to see that the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party have issued statements on this matter opoposing political manipulation. Many government officials, experts, and scholars in South Africa have also aired their views to demand a comprehensive reflection on COVID-19 and oppose attempts to politicize, stigmatize origin-tracing or take an ideological view on this issue. This is an objective, scientific, and just voice that should be heard and valued.

South Africa was also plagued by COVID-19-related stigmatization and labeling. China stands ready to work with South Africa to uphold the spirit of openness, transparency, science, and cooperation, ensure scientific and serious origin-tracing research, oppose politicizing origin-tracing and political manipulation, and maintain good global cooperation in the fight against COVID-19.

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