When asked whether the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered in a lab, scientists have already said “no” rather firmly, but the matter of the new corona virus’ origin is unlikely to be put to rest so easily. Discussions around this subject have become even more pertinent since US government intelligence officials are reportedly investigating the potential source of the pandemic, focussing on theories that it may have originated in a laboratory, despite all evidence pointing to SARS-CoV-2 not being human-made. The Fox News, in an exclusive report, based on unnamed sources has claimed that though the virus is a naturally occurring strain among bats and not a bioweapon, but it was being studied in Wuhan laboratory. The initial transmission of the virus was bat-to-human, the news channel said, adding that the “patient zero” worked at the laboratory. The lab employee was accidentally infected before spreading the disease among the common people outside the lab in Wuhan city. The Wuhan city laboratory has specialized in these coronaviruses since the early 2000’s. They have expertise in this area. As per a recent Washington Post, two years ago, the US embassy officials in China raised concerns about the insufficient biosafety at the Chinese government’s Wuhan Institute of Virology where deadly viruses and infectious diseases are studied. Though the institute, located quite close to the Wuhan wet market, is China’s first biosafety level IV lab, the US state department had warned in 2018 about “serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory”.
In an interview given to French CNews channel and during a podcast by Pourquoi Docteur, professor Montagnier who co-discovered HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) claimed the presence of elements of HIV in the genome of the coronavirus and even elements of the “germ of malaria” are highly suspect, according to a report in Asia Times. The theory that Covid-19 virus originated in the lab is making rounds for quite some time.
The world is currently confronted with huge health crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic. So far about 4.5 million people have been infected with the virus with more than 3 lakh deaths but many thousands are added to the toll on daily basis. Besides a health crisis, this viral pandemic is causing devastating impact on economies worldwide and what not. The world economy which was already sluggish before the Coronavirus outbreak is now contemplated to suffer a severe recession in 2020. If the impending economic crisis are not properly addressed through adequate policy interventions, its impact on the social and economic order will be humongous.
The epicentre of the virus was initially Wuhan, China but it has now invaded the entire world, mostly affecting the Eurozone and U.S. A number of theories are making rounds about the origins of the virus. China has claimed that the virus originated from the wet animal market through Bats. But serious questions are being raised on the origins of the virus by many including world leaders. The leaders from U.S. and Eurozone are claiming that the virus originated from a biological lab in Wuhan. They further allege that China was not transparent rather was very secretive, as a result of which the world could not
prepare well to face the challenges arising out from Coronavirus spread. Also, if the epicentre was Wuhan, but why the virus didn’t reached Beijing and Shanghai which are few hundreds and thousands miles away from Wuhan, but it contaminated countries which are thousands and thousands miles away. Why the Chinese government restricted the travel ban from Wuhan to the rest of its country but not to the rest of the world? Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump warned that China should face the consequences if it was “Knowingly responsible for unleashing the Coronavirus pandemic” and even termed it as “CHINESE VIRUS”. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has said that if China is more transparent about the origin story of the virus, the better it would prove for everyone in the world to learn from it. The UK along with Australia has joined US demand for getting investigations conducted by the intelligence officials whether the virus originated in a Wuhan virus lab or not. Given such an emerging situation, there is a need to search answers to the following questions:
- What are the actual origins of this deadly type of Coronavirus?
- Have the governments of different countries failed to take a timely action to control the spread of this deadly virus?
There are allegations and counter allegations about the origins of the virus. Some papers, which now have been taken off from the public domain did suggest the involvement of Chinese Wuhan Virology Lab coming up with some biological weaponry for its use. There are some assumptions though unfound till date that China deliberately allowed the virus to be spread in the world with an intention to make developed economies to suffer heavily and simply to gain economic superiority. U.S. President, Donald Trump alleges that pandemic could have been stopped if China had not failed in its duties and the present sufferings of the whole world are because of the failure of the China state. Serious doubts are being raised by many by noting that in this hour of crisis when whole world is currently grappling to tackle the virus, Chinese economy has come back on the track and they are earning billions of dollars by exporting medical equipment’s, face masks and other items. Protagonists of China to the contrary are claiming it as the handiwork of U.S. agencies with an ulterior motive to put roadblocks on the Chinese economic progress so as to stop it from becoming the world economic power.
The food habits of the people living in China are perhaps the root cause for the current crisis but it requires a thorough investigation by biologists. The basic questions that arise here for research are:
- Can a human being eat everything?’…from all sorts of insects to snakes to birds and even rats, cats and dogs.
- Are these habits developed recently in these regions or there is some historical support for such kinds of food habits
No doubt, in this globe one is expected to eat anything of his choice but in major societies, this is never the case. Habit of eating everything and anything goes against the law of the nature. All the creatures of God be it; animals, birds, insects, reptiles and even human beings except some sections, eat selectively. Then how come people in South Asia Region can eat anything and everything, even such creatures which worldwide are held unclean. The Hinduisim does not permits its people to eat any animals and birds and considered it
to be a sin. The scientists particularly, some religion based scientists, do have the problem at hand to establish scientifically the reason behind the prohibition of certain animals and birds for the benefit of mankind.
French Nobel prize winning scientist Luc Montagnier has sparked a fresh controversy by claiming that the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from a lab, and is the result of an attempt to manufacture a vaccine against the AIDS virus.
We have observed that the governments of different countries did fail miserably to take a timely action to control the spread of this deadly virus. Regardless of the origins of the Coronavirus, once it started spreading its tentacles in the Wuhan with huge human losses and sufferings, the governments of different countries were expected to take proactive measures to stop its entry and spread in their respective countries. China, by using a strong muscle power did succeed to a large extent in managing this epidemic. The numbers of infected persons and consequent deaths in China as of now are significantly less than the figures observed in U.S., Italy, Spain, France, U.K. and Germany. This is mainly attributed to the strict and stringent lockdown imposed in Wuhan and also partly by aggressive testing which many of the affected countries have failed to match till to date.
No doubt there has been some complacency on the part of China, but the other countries cannot be exonerated for their miserable roles as they too failed to take a proper cue regarding the disease. All the intelligence reports and other means of getting the information fell flat. WHO also faltered but they claim that they declared an international emergency at a time when only 82 cases outside China and no death had been reported but unfortunately the rest of world did not respond well to these advisories despite having sufficient time at their disposal. This is highly regrettable. To the contrary, some of the countries in the neighbourhood of China like South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand etc. took the infection seriously and were comparatively successful in controlling the spread of this deadly virus amongst their populace. This has been largely possible due to their proactive approaches. What has made them to win this battle so far could be the immediate and timely imposition of lockdown, and second due to the existence of adequate medical infrastructure? Perhaps the certain unique lifestyle habits and law abiding citizenry behaviours of the masses in these countries have played some role as well.
Eurozone and U.S. have miserably failed to visualise the impending catastrophe for their countries. Their governments and leaders initially ridiculed the likely consequences of this deadly virus which by all standards proved fatal to their citizens. Knowing the fact that their people travel to other parts of world in large numbers and also large number of people visit their countries, they needed to be more careful and very restrictive. It is being reported that millions of people travelled from these countries, to China as well. If the governments of these countries would have imposed restrictions on international travel right in the month of February or at least quarantined international travellers, there would not have been such a mass spread of this virus in their communities. Not to talk of imposing restrictions on international travel very early, such governments failed to even impose lockdown till the virus vociferously spread in their respective communities. Actually these governments weighted economics more than the human losses and sufferings mainly due to their myopic vision. Had these and other countries been
proactive in their approaches in dealing with this virus, the economic losses suffered by taking an action early would have been much lesser than the economic losses which they are now bound to borne post the virus spread in the communities.
The response of India and our UT of Jammu & Kashmir to the emergency can be categorized as a response delayed by few weeks but still better than many of the countries in Eurozone or US. Acknowledging the huge inadequacies in their health sector, the political dispensation of India did take proactive approach for early detection and isolation of the carriers particularly from China and other similar countries at the entry points followed by nationwide lockdown. A huge country like India is a hot bed for the spread of the infection and any miscalculated move can prove a disaster. The political will and the applications on ground for such a hugely populated country at least till date has proved beneficial and contained the community spread of the virus. But there seems to be some inadequacies that did result in the entry of the virus into the country. The virus emerged in the last week of December, 2019 in Wuhan China, and by the end of January the whole world had the full information about the contagious nature of the virus. Though India was quick enough to restrict travel from China but it failed to realise that virus can travel through other routes. This virus mainly travelled to India from Europe, U.S, and Arabian countries. India restricted travel from these countries very late, only once this problem had taken serious dimensions in Eurozone and U.S., but till then scores of people had entered the country from these countries. Initially, the modus operandi at the entry points was also lackadaisical. It was a mere checking of temperature and no traveller was quarantined. There seemed to be a delay of two weeks in the action on ground which included complete stoppage of international travel and also the lockdown. At the top of it, when actually these measures were taken there seemed to be no advance planning which manifested in the chaos and confusion, particularly amongst the migrant workers.
New findings from the Scripps Research Institute confirm the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has natural origins and was not made in a laboratory or artificial setting, as many have speculated. To reach the conclusion the team used analysed public genome sequence data from SARS- CoV-2 released by China and identified several tell-tale signs suggesting COVID-19 is an organic virus. Since the virus was first reported in Hubei Province in December it has infected over 4 million people in more than 200 countries. The WHO has classified COVID-19 as a pandemic, with global governments and healthcare systems rallying to “flatten the curve” and save lives.
While there has been speculation that the virus was developed in laboratories and released either accidently or as a form of bioterrorism, findings published in the journal NatureMedicine confirm COVID-19 is a product of natural evolution. The study was titled ‘The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2’ and highlights strong evidence for natural evolution.
“By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” says Kristian Andersen, PhD, corresponding author on the paper and associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research.
Sequencing the genome of SARS-CoV-2
Shortly after the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, Chinese scientists sequenced the genome of SARS-CoV-2 and released the data to researchers around the world. Andersen and his colleagues used this data to trace the origins of COVID-19, identifying several significant
features that suggest natural evolution. They found that the spike protein, a receptor-binding domain (RBD) that hooks onto host cells, had evolved to target ACE2, an enzyme founded on the outer surface of human cells that helps to regulate blood pressure. The team say the COVID-19 spike protein is so efficient at binding to human cells that it could only be a result of natural selection, not artificial engineering. Another tell-tale sign of natural origins is the molecular structure of COVID-19, which is substantially different from other known viruses. Rather than mimicking other viruses known to cause severe illness in humans, COVID-19 more closely resembles strains of coronavirus found in bats and pangolins.
“These two features of the virus, the mutations in the RBD portion of the spike protein and its distinct backbone, rules out laboratory manipulation as a potential origin for SARS-CoV-2” says Andersen.
Bats, pangolins and humans
While little is known about the exact origins of COVID-19, experts muse evolution could have occurred in a non-human host such as a bat, then jumped to humans. Another theory is that an intermediate host was involved, with pangolins identified as a possible third party. In a third scenario, researchers suggest a non-pathogenic version of COVID-19 jumped from an animal to a human, then evolved into its current state.
To conclude it can be said that in this war of allegations and counter allegations, the only causality seems to be the truth about the origins of the virus. It will never be known what had actually happened. Each power block is pushing its theory either out of sheer arrogance or just to settle geopolitical and economic objectives. One thing is very clear that once the dust settles, it is going to lead to a serious geopolitical and trade war led by
U. S. and its proxies and that will have a direct bearing on the developing and the underdeveloped world. Post Pandemic, the military confrontation does not seem to be a possibility but the cold war between the U. S./Eurozone and China is inevitable and in that case it is likely to create a new world order.
As of now, there seems to be no data to support these allegations and counter allegations but some study in 2013, which till recent past was available freely on the website, have underscored the possibility of the origin of the coronavirus to the wet animal markets of China. We need to keep in mind that viruses are prone to mutations and such a character is a major detriment to the evolvement of vaccines against them and consequently the infection becomes rampant. One area, where Chinese could be completely held responsible is seemingly a major cover up with regard to the existence, infective scale and transmissibility of such a virus. Such behaviour is highly irresponsible and is never expected from a responsible nation. There seems to be a major role failure of WHO as well, whatever be the issue, it’s the common people who are the worst sufferer and the same will be remembered till the centuries to come.