Friday, 1 May 2020

Dangerous nonsense from Donald Trump

The most insidious conspiracy theories have a germ of truth at base. Covid-19 is a naturally-occurring virus which passed in December last year to one or more humans, probably from a horseshoe-bat or maybe a pangolin, in Wuhan in Hubei province in China. The location was almost certainly a "wet market". SARS and MERS viruses are generally acknowledged to have an animal origin. Wuhan is also the location of one of the leading international laboratories studying zoonoses. (One might think that proximity to an established "wet market" aided research.) Wuhan was the source of the strain of corona virus which has now circled the globe.

On these facts, President Trump has built a scenario in his latest press conference that the Chinese accidentally or (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) deliberately released the killer virus. The illogic of President Xi deliberately killing nearly 5,000 of his own people and endangering states with which China has significant trade passed him by. And why would China target Iran, Trump's bĂȘte noire?

The fake news from Washington has been virtually completely refuted as this article demonstrates.
In particular:

the conclusion by a team of American, British, and Australian researchers could not be more clear: “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible…. Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,” the virologists stated in a March 17 article published in the scientific journal Nature.

A group of 27 public health scientists from eight countries signed an open letter this March in the Lancet medical journal issuing support to scientists and health professionals in China and “strongly condemn[ing] conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” The letter states that the scientific findings to date “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens.”

Most of the baseless accusations thrown out at the President's press conferences, intended to improve his chances of re-election later this year, are necessarily aimed at a domestic audience and can safely be ignored by the rest of the world. The Chinese allegations are altogether more dangerous as they are likely to be taken up by vested interests internationally. (I can think of a few Tory MPs poised to repeat them in the Commons.) There have already been physical attacks by ignorant thugs on people of Chinese appearance in several Western countries.  One trusts that the US intelligence and medical institutions will put the record straight publicly and soon.

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