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US still leaking its political virus: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2021-06-29 21:28
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Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wipes her tears as members of Congress observe a moment of silence for the 600,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside the US Capitol in Washington, June 14, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The United States is still trying to interfere in the science-based attempts to determine the origins of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

As a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday, while the US claims it wants to prevent another outbreak, "what's really on its mind is just to shift the blame to China".

He urged the US to "immediately stop its political manipulation of the origin-tracing issue, and stop playing dirty tricks on the scientific community". He was referring to reports that the US experts on the Lancet journal's coronavirus origins task force are under "threat" and being "pressured" to renounce the broadly endorsed assumption that the outbreak was a spillover from bats in favor of the theory that it leaked from a virology lab in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province.

This is a claim first made by the previous US administration, despite there being no evidence to support it, and despite the lab having no safety scares. Unlike some of the US labs, where there have been reports of repeated breaches of safety protocols, including at Fort Detrick, the heart of the US biological weapons program, which was temporarily shut down from July to November 2019 after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention inspection identified a number of serious safety violations.

The US has peremptorily dismissed calls for an origin tracing study in the US by the World Health Organization, and failed to provide a responsible account of the real situation at Fort Detrick and the more than 200 bio labs it runs all around the world.

Yet there is no doubt identifying the origin of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic will give a better understanding of the mechanisms of its transmission so the world is better prepared to contain future outbreaks.

That is why the WHO and the international scientific communities have been working tirelessly on source tracing.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman was correct in acknowledging that "origin tracing is a serious scientific matter" that should be left to scientists. In addition to full, unfettered access to all necessary information, scientists must be able to operate in a professional manner and in an environment independent of political biases and manipulation.

Considering the complexities and breadth of the current pandemic, the long list of unanswered questions surrounding the outbreak, especially the conflicting narratives about it, it is particularly important that the origin tracing be conducted without pressure being brought to bear to arrive at a politically predetermined conclusion.

If the origin tracing is not purely science-based, and the present pattern of politicizing the pandemic persists, the world will harvest nothing useful except for future risks, deeper political biases and divides, and endless, ever-escalating mutual distrust.

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