Covid-19 is just tip of the iceberg, warns China's top virologist

Cheryl Sanders
May 29, 2020

After staunchly denying the United States allegations of coronavirus originating from a bio-lab in its first epicentre Wuhan, Chinese researchers have debunked widely reported view that the deadly virus emanated from a wet market in the city selling live animals.

Chinese scientists say the coronavirus didn't originate at a live animal market or a laboratory in Wuhan, pushing back against United States officials over where the pandemic began, according to a report.

In an interview on Chinese state television, Shi Zhengli, known as the "Bat Woman" for her research about bats and the viruses associated with them, also called for greater worldwide cooperation in the fight against epidemics such as Covid-19.

"These viruses exist in nature, whether we admit it or not", she said. It was not clear from the report what percentage of samples in Wuhan had been collected for testing.

Wuhan, where the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus exploded and was focused in China, checked this Tuesday the health condition of over half its population amid a campaign to detect possible cases of the disease. "If we don't study them, there could be another outbreak". "The scientists noticed that genomes of six patients with contact history related to the Huanan seafood market fell into one kind of clade while those of three other patients diagnosed in the same period but without exposure to the market clustered into the other clade, suggesting multiple origins of transmission in Shanghai". Earlier, Zhengli had also said that even after the world finds a way to combat the virus responsible for Covid-19, it should prepare for more outbreaks caused by bat-borne coronaviruses.

The mass testing identified 198 asymptomatic cases - people who carry the virus but do not show symptoms, according to the state-run Health Times. "It still needs scientists' continuous effort in determining the intermediate host of coronavirus, and carrying out comprehensive and detailed virus-tracing studies".

China is resisting mounting pressure from the USA and the leaders of many countries for an inquiry into the origin of the virus.

Ms Shi is one of many Chinese virologists and public health officials paraded on state media in recent days to repeat that the coronavirus did not escape from the lab and extol containment success.

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