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PC scientists help China dodge probe of how the coronavirus got started

PC scientists help China dodge probe of how the coronavirus
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China’s Communist regime is determined to block probes into the origins of the novel coronavirus. And influential Western scientists are going along with Beijing’s effort to suppress any inquiry. They’re declaring “solidarity with the scientists and health professionals of China,” as a letter signed by some two dozen experts in the journal Lancet put it.

These experts bat away any hint of Chinese culpability in the virus’ inception as “conspiracy theory.” That’s a deadly problem. Conquering this virus and devising a vaccine will require unbiased research, no matter where it leads. And the biggest mistake is to limit scientific inquiry and pander to China.

When Australia called for a formal inquiry into the pandemic’s origins, China explicitly threatened to boycott Australian imports, slapping 80 percent tariffs on barley and restrictions on beef imported from Oz. Countries got the message. The World Health Assembly, the legislative arm of the World Health Organization, settled for a watered-down resolution to investigate the global “response” to COVID-19 — not its origins.

What we don’t know about COVID-19 far exceeds what little is known. But research has already forced Beijing to abandon its original tale that the virus leapt from wild animals to a human at the Wuhan seafood market in December. Some of these new findings will be essential for developing a vaccine and troubleshooting future viral disasters.

Findings by Cambridge University geneticist Peter Forster indicate three different strains of COVID-19 were circulating in China in the summer of 2019, each later predominating in a different part of the world.

Scientists from the University of British Columbia and the Broad Institute indicate the virus was already capable of spreading to humans when it reached Wuhan.

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Harvard scientists, using aerial photographs of crammed hospital parking lots in Wuhan beginning in August 2019, speculate the virus hit that city months before China admits. The Xi Jinping regime calls that suggestion “ridiculous.”

European scientists indicate the disease invaded France, and possibly Italy, by December, though at the time, it was thought to be a regular flu.

Most controversially, a new study by three vaccine researchers published in Cambridge University’s QRB Discovery journal points to a segment in the virus’ genetic code they say may have been engineered in a lab. They argue that the addition is what makes the virus contagious to humans, besides wild animals like bats.

These leads need to be investigated, but instead they’re being denounced as conspiracy theories. Not just by the Chinese, but by scientists from prestigious American universities. This team of Beijing apologists has been at it for a while.

On Feb. 19, even before the lockdowns began, scientists from the University of Chicago, Emory University and other institutions signed a letter in Lancet supporting WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ call for “unity” with Beijing and condemning any research “suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

They “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” How could they have known so soon, with so much yet to research?

The EcoHealth Alliance likewise blasted the hypothesis of a lab-engineered genetic component as “the latest chapter in a tale of blame, misinformation and finger-pointing” and warned it would become a platform for “posturing against China,” including through “trade sanctions and even reparations.”

ABC News’ medical correspondents claimed that “virologists around the globe have fiercely debunked” the theory. Many attacked it, for sure, but hardly disproved it definitively.

Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, and scientists writing a critique in the journal Nature Medicine argue that “if the new coronavirus had been manufactured in a lab, scientists most likely would have used the backbones of coronaviruses already known to cause serious diseases in humans” rather than inventing something new.

“Most likely?” That’s a guess, not proof.

True, infectivity can be the result of naturally occurring mutations. Scripps Research virologists reported on June 12 that the COVID-19 virus now circulating in the United States has mutated to be more contagious.

Bottom line: We need scientists to be scientists, not political censors.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York, the chairwoman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and author of the forthcoming book “The Next Pandemic.”

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