BEIJING, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- For some time, various lies and rumors concocted by the U.S. side against China on origins tracing have been repeatedly refuted by China and the international community with detailed facts and data.
So far, more than 80 countries and over 300 political parties, social organizations and think tanks have opposed the politicization of COVID-19 origins tracing in various ways.
The U.S. intelligence department recently released a declassified version of its assessment report on COVID-19 origins. Continuously disregarding science-based origins tracing, the report insinuated that "the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences leaked the virus", and accused China of lacking transparency and obstructing international investigations.
Origins tracing is a scientific matter, yet the U.S. side is using intelligence agencies to trace the origins, and peddling the old lies that have been refuted under a cloak of intelligence. Washington's real purpose is attempting to confuse the public and deceive the world, and continuing to seek a "presumption of guilt" against China, politicize the origins tracing, shift the blame onto China, and suppress and contain it.
Based on the so-called U.S. investigation report and public materials of all parties, the Chinese side once again lists all kinds of vicious slanders concocted by the U.S. side on COVID-19 origins tracing, and presents to the international community facts and the truth, so the plots and tricks of "politicizing origins tracing" and "origins tracing by the intelligence community" can be exposed.
U.S. vicious slanders on China over COVID-19 origins tracing and the truth
Disregarding science and facts, the United States has fabricated lies, and smeared and criticized China. China has put people's life safety and health first, decisively launched an all-out war against the pandemic, and adopted "hard core" prevention and control measures that are the most comprehensive, stringent and thorough, which have effectively blocked the chain of virus transmission.
Upholding the vision of building a global community of health for all, China has informed the international community of the outbreak as soon as possible, shared its experience in epidemic prevention, control and treatment with all parties without reservation, provided anti-epidemic assistance within its capacity, and taken the lead in launching the world's largest vaccine cooperation, making an outstanding contribution to global public health security.
China has always adhered to a scientific attitude and actively participated in the global cooperation in science-based origins tracing, and twice invited the World Health Organization (WHO) experts to China to carry out COVID-19 origins tracing studies, in order to make China's contribution to mankind's final defeat of the pandemic.
1. On the U.S. claim that clusters of COVID-19 cases first appeared in Wuhan
Vicious slander 1: The earliest cluster of COVID-19 cases arose in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
Facts and truth: A growing number of clues, reports and studies have indicated that COVID-19 cases emerged in many places around the world as early as in the second half of 2019. The outbreak in the United States occurred earlier than the officially confirmed case. A study by Italian research institutes has revealed that the virus may have circulated in Italy as early as in late summer 2019.
◆On Dec. 27, 2019, Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine reported cases of pneumonia of unknown cause to Wuhan Jianghan Center for Disease Prevention and Control. From Jan. 3, 2020, China began to regularly inform the World Health Organization, relevant countries including the United States, and China's Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan of the outbreak.
In January 2021, the WHO-convened global study of origins of SARS-CoV-2 said that there was no indication of the transmission of the novel coronavirus before December 2019 in Wuhan, adding it was considered unlikely that any substantial transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was occurring in Wuhan in October or November 2019.
◆The U.S. National Institutes of Health's analysis of more than 24,000 stored blood samples of U.S. citizens contributed to the agency in the first three months of 2020 suggested that the virus that causes COVID-19 was present in the United States as far back as December 2019, weeks before first U.S. cases were officially confirmed.
A joint study by the University of California--Los Angeles and the University of Washington showed that the number of patients with respiratory symptoms and diseases from late December 2019 to February 2020 has increased significantly, indicating the virus had already spread in U.S. communities before the country had clinical awareness and testing capabilities.
In March 2020, then U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield publicly acknowledged at a House committee hearing that some COVID-19 deaths have been diagnosed as flu-related in the United States. The U.S. side said it would conduct a nationwide retrospective investigation and study across the country.
In May 2020, Michael Melham, mayor of Belleville in the U.S. state of New Jersey, said he had probably been infected with the virus in November 2019, and that test results showed COVID-19 antibodies had been present in his body for a long time.
In May 2020, USA Today reported that 171 people in Florida showed symptoms of COVID-19 as early as in January 2020 and none of them reported any travel experience to China, two months before the first confirmed COVID-19 cases were officially recorded in the state.
In June 2021, News Medical cited a study to report that COVID-19 reactive antibodies were present in 106 residual archived samples from routine blood donations that were collected in nine U.S. states between Dec. 13, 2019 and Jan. 17, 2020, and among them 84 samples exhibited neutralizing activity.
In July 2021, U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on its website that its Plant Health Inspection Service recently completed a study, which showed that antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 were detected in 33 percent of the 481 white-tailed deer serum samples collected from January 2020 through 2021 in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania states, and among them 67 percent of samples collected in Michigan contained antibodies. This was the first detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife, and the presence of the antibodies confirmed that a large number of white-tailed deer in the United States have already been exposed to the virus. The study also showed that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were detected in one of the 143 samples collected before January 2020, which means that the virus infections occurred in white-tailed deer populations in the country as early as in 2019.
In August 2021, the Mercury News, a daily of San Jose, California, published an exclusive report revealing that COVID-19 was present in the United States as early as December or even November 2019, and caused many deaths in early January 2020. These early deaths occurred in different U.S. states, some of which were in remote locations where local residents barely had any physical contacts with China. Experts have said a deeper analysis of early deaths in the United States is needed.
Both The Palm Beach Post and The Miami Herald revealed that the Florida Department of Health posted on its website data of 171 patients who had experienced COVID-19 symptoms in January and February 2020 or eventually tested positive for the virus, but these data were once deleted for unexplained reasons.
Many comments on U.S. social media posted in the first half of 2020 indicated that nearly more than 200 people in the United States or countries having close ties with the United States said people they knew or they themselves had been suspected to be infected with the virus as early as in November 2019, with COVID-19-like symptoms, and all these are real foreign netizens.
Ado Paglinawan, a former press attache at the Philippine embassy in Washington, released a book entitled "No Vaccine for a Virus Called Racism," in which he sorted out the timeline of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and made the judgment that the disease started in June 2019 in the United States and later spread across the world.
In September 2021, ChinaXiv, an online publishing service operated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, published a study on dating the origins of COVID-19 based on big data modeling and analysis. The researchers set up an optimized model using the epidemic transmission model and big-data analysis method, and inferred the dates of the first infection cases in 12 northeastern U.S. states and in China's Wuhan City and Zhejiang Province, based on published data. The result indicated that, for the 12 U.S. states, the possible dates of the first infection, with a probability of 50 percent, fall mostly between August and October 2019, while the earliest is April 26, 2019 on Rhode Island, and the latest is Nov. 30, 2019 in Delaware. All of the dates indicated by the data are earlier than Jan. 20, 2020, the officially announced date of the first confirmed case in the United States, showing that the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States started to spread around September 2019 with a high confidence probability.
◆In November 2020, institutions including the National Cancer Institute in Milan and the University of Milan published research findings showing that 11.6 percent of the blood serum samples collected between September 2019 to March 2020 had developed COVID-19 antibodies, with 23 samples collected in September 2019 being positive for antibodies.
In January 2021, news outlet The Local (Italy) reported that a SARS-CoV-2 in situ hybridization reaction was detected at multiple parts on the skin biopsy sample of an Italian female patient in November 2019.
In July 2021, the University of Milan and other institutions in Italy tested samples and found molecular evidence for SARS-CoV-2 infection in 13 out of 156 cases. Among them, 11 were collected from August 2019 to February 2020, earlier than the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy was officially recognized. Additionally, a urine sample collected on Sept. 12, 2019 from a measles patient in Italy tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. The sequencing result has been uploaded to open databases. These results suggested that the virus may have been circulating in Italy during the late summer of 2019.
◆In May 2020, French medical journal the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents published an essay titled "SARS-CoV-2 was already spreading in France in late December 2019." The researchers selected 14 medical records of ICU patients admitted for influenza-like illness between Dec. 2, 2019 and Jan.16, 2020, performed COVID-19 PCR testing on the samples, and found that one sample taken from a 42-year-old male was positive. The absence of a link with China and the lack of recent foreign travel of the case suggested that the virus was already spreading in France in late December 2019. In addition, openly-available information showed that seroprevalence of neutralizing antibodies in France increased in mid-December 2019, while a throat swab of a French patient with hemoptysis from December 2019 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA.
◆In June 2020, the University of Barcelona in Spain said in a news release that researchers of the university's group on enteric virus detected the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in samples of waste water in Barcelona, collected on Jan. 15, 2020.
2. On the U.S. false claim of a possible virus leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
Vicious slander 2: The COVID-19 outbreak may be directly linked to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Facts and truth: The COVID-19 outbreak has nothing to do with the WIV.
◆Wang Yanyi, director of the WIV, told CGTN in May 2020 and NBC in August that year in interviews that speculation of the virus leak from the WIV "is pure fabrication," and the WIV had never "encountered, researched or kept the virus."
◆In March 2021, the WIV issued a statement saying the institute had not been exposed to COVID-19 before Dec. 30, 2019.
◆Authorities in the international scientific community have repeatedly refuted the so-called "Wuhan lab leak theory."
In February 2021, at the press conference of the China-WHO joint expert team on origins tracing of the novel coronavirus, Peter Ben Embarek, leader of the international team of experts to Wuhan, said they had in-depth and candid exchanges with relevant Chinese personnel, took a detailed look at the management of the laboratory, its working practices and recent virus research, and concluded that a "lab leak" was "extremely unlikely".
◆Peter Daszak, a virologist and president of U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance who has worked with the WIV for 15 years, said in an interview with CNN that the WIV did not have the virus that caused the COVID-19 outbreak, so it is impossible the virus originated from the laboratory.
U.S. media outlet Bloomberg reported in June 2021 that Australian virologist Danielle Anderson, who has worked in the WIV for months, was "dumbfounded by the portrayal of the lab by some media outside China, and the toxic attacks on scientists that have ensued."
In July 2021, 24 internationally-renowned scientists published an essay in The Lancet, noting there is no scientifically validated evidence directly supporting the theory that the virus could have leaked from a Chinese laboratory.
Also in July, scientists from the United States, Britain and Australia published a preprint paper on Zenodo, a European research data-sharing platform, pointing out that no evidence showed the virus originated from the Wuhan lab. It also said that there is no evidence that "any early cases had any connection to the Wuhan Institute of Virology," or that "the WIV possessed or worked on a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 prior to the pandemic."
◆In August 2021, 21 virologists from the United States, Canada, Britain, China, Australia, and Austria published a paper in the Cell journal, concluding that "there is no evidence that any early cases had any connection to the WIV ... nor evidence that the WIV possessed or worked on a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 prior to the pandemic." Coronaviruses are more likely to have spread from animal hosts to humans, the paper said, adding "the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 bears several signatures of these prior zoonotic events."
◆In September 2021, a study posted on Research Square, a preprint platform of British journal Nature, found that coronaviruses in rhinolophus bats in some caves in northern Laos share key similarities with SARS-CoV-2, suggesting that there are viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in nature. The paper said researchers took samples from rhinolophus bats in some caves in northern Laos, and found in the samples three coronaviruses whose receptor-binding domain (RBD) are highly identical to that of SARS-CoV-2.
Researchers pointed out that the viruses named BANAL-52, BANAL-103 and BANAL-236 are more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than any known viruses. Among them, BANAL-236 has almost identical RBD as SARS-CoV-2.
Marc Eloit, an author of the paper and a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said the three coronaviruses may have contributed to the origin of SARS-CoV-2 and may intrinsically pose a future risk of direct transmission to humans.
◆In June 2021, an open letter written by former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford was published, which revealed how the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC) of the U.S. Department of State have cooked up the lab leak theory. According to this open letter, from December 2020 to early January 2021, under the direction of then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Miles Maochun Yu, member of the U.S. State Department's policy planning staff, instructed Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas DiNanno in the AVC and adviser David Asher to bypass biological scientists and biological weapon experts to brief the false argument inside the Department that the coronavirus is a biological weapon agent deliberately unleashed upon the world by the Chinese government. After Ford sent several emails to remind DiNanno and Asher to establish an "expert vetting group or process" that would involve scientists, the AVC held a panel discussion in January this year, where the panelists pointed out key flaws in relevant documents. Ford later sent emails about the panel to a number of his senior State Department colleagues, saying that the assertions AVC had been making seemed to have major problems. Ford suspected it is because of this that the argument about biological weapon was not mentioned in the "Fact Sheet: Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology" issued on Jan. 15 by the high-level officials of the State Department. Instead, they put forward in the fact sheet the speculative argument of whether COVID-19 had originated at the laboratory.
Vicious slander 3: The personnel of the Wuhan Institute of Virology were accidentally infected while collecting virus samples in the wild. Three staff members of the Wuhan Institute of Virology were infected with the epidemic in November 2019.
Facts and truth: None of the staff members or graduate students of the Wuhan Institute of Virology has been infected with the novel coronavirus.
◆In March 2021, the Wuhan Institute of Virology issued a statement stating that so far, its employees and graduate students have maintained zero infections.
◆The Western media reports of "three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology going to hospital in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus infections" were completely groundless. China has repeatedly asked the skeptics to reveal the names of these three people in order to make the reports clear, but no one has so far provided a name.
◆In June 2021, Bloomberg reported that Australian virologist Danielle Anderson, who had paid many visits to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for months of study, said that by the end of 2019, no one she knew in the institute got ill. Anderson also said that when many of her colleagues from Wuhan went to Singapore for a meeting in December 2019, no one was discussing the spread of any "disease" in the laboratory.
Vicious slander 4: The management of the P4 laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology is "unscientific" and there are "security loopholes."
Facts and truth: The P4 laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a Sino-French governmental cooperation project with strict protective facilities and measures.
◆As a laboratory with the highest level of biosafety protection, the Wuhan P4 laboratory has no record of pathogen leakage accidents or infection of its personnel since it was officially put into operation in 2018. The Wuhan P4 laboratory has been designed, constructed and operated in accordance with international requirements and national standards. It not only has stable and reliable biosafety protection facilities, but also has established a complete biosafety management system and a team of professional support and maintenance personnel. The hardware facilities, management level, staff, and working methods of the Wuhan P4 laboratory are the same as those of other P4 laboratories operating safely in the world.
Vicious slander 5: Satellite images show that in October 2019, the number of vehicles in the parking lots of several hospitals such as Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University and Maternal and Child Hospital of Hubei Province increased significantly compared with the same period in 2018. At the same time, the Baidu search engine recorded a soaring number of words such as "cough" and "diarrhea." Therefore, the novel coronavirus disease may begin to spread in Wuhan at the end of August 2019.
Facts and truth: The relevant inferences are purely subjective, and related evidence cannot lead to corresponding conclusions. The relevant reports and studies are very absurd.
◆In response, the World Health Organization stated that people should not over-interpret the changes in the number of cars in hospital parking lots, and "jump to" two or three inferences, and then link them to the COVID-19 epidemic.
◆Baidu, a Chinese hi-tech company, responded to this question with an index chart. The chart shows that the search volume for "cough" and "diarrhea" has not changed significantly from previous years, and the search for "diarrhea" has decreased slightly around December 2019.
◆Zeng Guang, a member of a high-level expert team on the prevention and control of COVID-19 from the National Health Commission of China, wrote an article refuting the study as a typical misuse of big data epidemiology and as very absurd in many respects. One absurd thing is about the time, referring to the study that dated the spread of the novel coronavirus back to August 2019 based on parking lot traffic and Baidu search data. In October of that year, the Wuhan Military World Games was held. If the virus had spread in August, it was impossible that the military athletes from all over the world that participated in the games felt nothing. It was also impossible that U.S. military athletes who went to a local hospital in Wuhan for medical treatment at that time noticed nothing.
The second absurd thing is about the understanding of the disease, according to Zeng. The study used data from the Maternal and Child Hospital of Hubei Province as one of the main supporting evidence. This hospital is a major pediatric hospital in Wuhan. However, most people infected with COVID-19 were not children. The child infection rate of COVID-19 is relatively low.
Third, Zeng said, searching for "cough" and "diarrhea" as keywords is ridiculous. In the early stage, many patients infected with COVID-19 have the symptom of cough, but not many have diarrhea. Later, the early-stage symptoms will eventually develop into pneumonia symptoms. If the virus had spread in August 2019, why haven't these symptoms turned into pneumonia for such a long time?
Vicious slander 6: The Wuhan Institute of Virology is only about 300 yards (about 0.27 km) away from the Huanan seafood market.
Facts and truth: About 300 yards away from the Huanan seafood market lies the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Wuhan Institute of Virology is more than 10 km away from the Huanan seafood market, with the Yangtze River between their locations.
Vicious slander 7: The United States House Foreign Affairs Committee minority staff, led by Republican Representative Michael McCaul, published an investigation report targeting the Wuhan Institute of Virology, claiming that the institute had issued an air conditioning system renovation contract worth of 606 million U.S. dollars. This contract made people suspect whether the air conditioning system could normally work before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facts and truth: The actual value of this contract is 606,000 U.S. dollars. This low-level mistake in the decimal point of the data in McCaul's report was copied and spread by irresponsible mainstream U.S. media, exposing a lack of independent and rigorous professionalism of the U.S. side, which attempts to fabricate evidence in a rush.
◆McCaul's report also exaggerated the funding for the other six projects of the Wuhan Institute of Virology by 100 or 10 times. For example, according to the report, the costs of the security services of the Zhengdian Park of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the maintenance of the P3 laboratory and the laboratory animal center, and the transformation project of the hazardous waste treatment system are respectively 1.3 million U.S. dollars (approximately 8.3 million yuan), 401,300 U.S. dollars (approximately 2.6 million yuan), and 1.5213 million U.S. dollars (approximately 9.86 million yuan), while the actual amounts are 830,000 yuan, 260,000 yuan and 986,000 yuan.
When citing relevant data, McCaul's "researchers" removed the decimal point from the data of the Chinese side, leading to huge mistakes. The U.S. media including The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, without fact checking, cited and spread the report's mistakes.
Vicious slander 8: The Sierra Nevada Corporation, a main contractor of the U.S. Department of Defense, has issued a report saying that the core evidence for the novel coronavirus originating from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was that in mid-October 2019, many "roadblocks" were set up on the roads around the institute.
Facts and truth: The U.S. Daily Beast website pointed out that the so-called "roadblocks" were actually related to the road works around the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the traffic near the institute was no different.
Vicious slander 9: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has cooperated with the Chinese military to carry out the "gain-of-function" research of the coronavirus.
Facts and truth: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has never cooperated with any other parties, including the Chinese military, to conduct research on the "gain-of-function" research of the coronavirus.
◆In July 2021, Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the National Health Commission of China, stated at a press conference that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has not conducted any "gain-of-function" research of the coronavirus, and there is no so-called man-made virus there.
◆In June 2021, Shi Zhengli, a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said in an interview with The New York Times that her laboratory had never conducted or cooperated in "gain-of-function" experiments to enhance the virulence of the coronavirus.
◆In June 2021, Australian virologist Danielle Anderson, who worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said in an interview with Bloomberg that there was no evidence that the institute carried out a viral gain-of-function experiment.
Vicious slander 10: The Wuhan Institute of Virology, through cooperation with Professor Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina, has acquired "the technique to modify a virus without leaving a trace," which "hides" the modification mark when artificially intervening in virus gene recombination.
Facts and truth: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has never designed, manufactured or leaked the novel coronavirus, nor does it have the ability to completely design and create new coronaviruses. The Wuhan Institute of Virology does not have the so-called technique of modifying a virus without leaving a trace.
Vicious slander 11: In 2015, Baric worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to publish an article claiming that the bat coronavirus was successfully used to construct a chimeric virus that is highly pathogenic to humans.
Facts and truth: Baric acquired the technique to synthesize coronaviruses more than ten years ago. He did obtain the genetic sequence of the biological samples collected from bat specimens from Shi Zhengli and her team, but the virus modification and mouse infection experiments were all carried out at the University of North Carolina in the United States. Baric did not provide the chimeric virus he constructed to Shi's team.
◆In 2008, Baric co-authored a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, detailing the method of designing, synthesizing and modifying a SARS-like coronavirus. "In this study, we have combined phylogenetic and bioinformatics analyses, large-scale cDNA synthesis, chimeric gene design, and reverse genetics to generate a consensus Bat-SCoV. Successful recovery of the infectious chimeric virus ... demonstrates the plasticity of the CoV type I glycoprotein," read the abstract of the paper. "To test a possible route of emergence from the noncultivable Bat-SCoV to human SARS-CoV, we designed a consensus Bat-SCoV genome and replaced the Bat-SCoV Spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) with the SARS-CoV RBD (Bat-SRBD). Bat-SRBD was infectious in cell culture and in mice and was efficiently neutralized by antibodies specific for both bat and human CoV Spike proteins."
◆In 2013, when the team of Shi Zhengli detected the genome sequence of several coronaviruses from a bat cave in southwest China's Yunnan Province, Baric approached her, expressing his hope to obtain the samples of these coronaviruses for research. Shi shared her findings with Baric. With his virus modification technique, Baric and his team created in his laboratory in the United States a new coronavirus that can infect humans. In this research, the modification and the mice infection experiments were all conducted in the University of North Carolina. The constructed chimeric virus was not provided for Shi's team. The finding of the research was published on the "Nature Medicine" journal in 2015.
◆In 2016, Baric and researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvard Medical School and other institutions published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The conclusion of the paper stated that the chimeric virus they created using SARS-like coronavirus as a template showed replicability in mouse experiments.
Vicious slander 12: In 2018, the Wuhan Institute of Virology planned to "release genetically modified coronaviruses" into a bat cave and applied for funding from the United States, but the application was rejected.
Facts and truth: What the Wuhan Institute of Virology planned to "release" into the bat cave were never "coronaviruses," but a kind of atomized particle "vaccines" against the coronaviruses produced through genetic engineering techniques. The atomized particles can cause immune responses in bats, thereby preventing bats from being infected with the coronaviruses and then spreading the viruses to humans. This is the bidding requirement of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense.
◆The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense once held a tender for its PREEMPT program, namely the "Preventing Emerging Pathogenic Threats" program which seeks to "preserve military readiness by protecting against the infectious disease threat" for U.S. soldiers sent to overseas countries. Organized by the U.S. EcoHealth Alliance, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, along with laboratories of scientists from the United States and other countries including Baric, participated in the bidding.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has not participated in any experiments involving "genetic modification" of viruses and recombination of viral proteins in this bidding project. These molecular virological operations were mainly carried out by Baric and his laboratory. The role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the bidding document was mainly to carry out "field work," namely collecting virus samples in the field, analyze which viruses are posing a threat of infecting humans after mutation, and then extract the genetic sequences of relevant viruses and give them to U.S. laboratories such as Baric's to conduct further research on molecular virology.
3. On the U.S. false claim of China covering up the truth at the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19
Vicious slander 13: On the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Chinese government delayed the disease reporting and concealed the truth.
Facts and truth: By upholding a scientific attitude and following the laws of epidemiology, the Chinese government promptly shared the virus genetic sequence and epidemic information with the World Health Organization and the international community. It has also informed the international community including the United States about the epidemic situation in a timely, open and transparent manner.
◆The novel coronavirus was an unknown virus, and getting to know it needs a process. Any government must be very cautious when dealing with a public health crisis, and should go through studies, comparisons and scientific demonstrations. As the first country to report the COVID-19 epidemic, China needs more careful scientific research. To jump to conclusions without research is irresponsible to science and the people.
◆As a signatory of the International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization, China has always performed its duties and obligations under the International Health Regulations in an open, transparent and responsible manner. In accordance with the "Frontier Health and Quarantine Law of the People's Republic of China" and the "Law of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases," China has scientifically adopted and adjusted health and quarantine measures at border exits in a timely manner to strictly prevent the spread of the epidemic across borders, without any concealment or delay.
◆As China owns experience in responding to SARS, it has been extremely vigilant about the epidemic. After discovering this unidentified pneumonia, it immediately began scientific investigation and comparison, promptly isolated the novel coronavirus strain, obtained the virus genetic sequence as early as possible, and reported the genetic sequence to the World Health Organization. After the experts made a scientific conclusion that the disease can spread from person to person, the Chinese government immediately declared lockdown of the city of Wuhan, which has a population of more than 10 million. International experts generally believe that China has acted in the quickest manner possible. (see the white paper "Fighting COVID-19: China in Action" for details.)
◆On Jan. 3, 2020, China notified the United States of epidemic information and prevention and control measures for the first time.
On Jan. 10, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other professional institutions have initially developed test kits, and Wuhan immediately tested all relevant cases admitted to the hospital. Heads of the National Health Commission and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention held phone conversations respectively with the chief of the World Health Organization on the epidemic response, and exchanged relevant information.
Starting from Jan. 11, 2020, China reported the epidemic information to the World Health Organization and others on a daily basis.
On Jan. 12, 2020, Wuhan's municipal health commission changed the name of "viral pneumonia of unknown cause" to "novel coronavirus pneumonia" for the first time in its information report. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as designated agencies by the National Health Commission, submitted the information of the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus to the World Health Organization, which was published in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) and shared globally. The National Health Commission shared the genetic sequence information of the novel coronavirus with the World Health Organization.
On Jan. 13, 2020, the National Health Commission held a meeting to guide Hubei Province and the Wuhan city to further enhance epidemic control measures, strengthen temperature monitoring of personnel at ports and stations, and reduce crowd gatherings. The official website of the World Health Organization issued a statement on the discovery of the novel coronavirus cases in Thailand, pointing out that China has shared the results of genetic sequence, enabling more countries to quickly diagnose patients. Delegations from China's Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan went to Wuhan to study the epidemic prevention and control work.
On Jan. 18-19, 2020, the National Health Commission of China organized a high-level national group of medical and prevention experts to Wuhan to inspect the epidemic prevention and control work. On Jan. 19, the high-level expert group, through a careful study, confirmed in the midnight that the novel coronavirus can spread from person to person.
On Jan. 27, 2020, then U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States was in close communication with China on the virus (coronavirus).
On Feb. 11, 2020, at the invitation of experts from the influenza department of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, experts from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention held a teleconference with them to communicate and share information on epidemic prevention and control.
On Feb. 13, 2020, officials of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote to heads of the National Health Commission of China to communicate on the arrangements for cooperation in health and epidemic prevention and control between the two sides.
Starting from Feb. 16, 2020, a China-WHO joint expert inspection team composed of 25 experts from China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, the United States and the World Health Organization used nine days to visit Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan and other places to conduct field investigations.
◆When attending the 33rd African Union Summit in Ethiopia,Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly said that Chinese agencies stationed at the United Nations have reported details of the epidemic to the United Nations, and the Chinese government has released information on the epidemic in a timely and transparent manner, allowing the outside world to know clear of the ongoing epidemic situation in China, which has been conducive to multilateral cooperation to prevent the epidemic from spreading.
Vicious slander 14: The Chinese government has not handled the epidemic in a correct and timely manner.
Facts and truth: The Chinese government has adopted the most extensive, stringent and thorough prevention and control measures in the shortest time possible, containing the disease mainly within Wuhan and succeeding in cutting channels for the transmission.
◆The COVID-19 epidemic is a major public health emergency. The virus has spread faster and wider than any other since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and has proven to be the most difficult to contain. Through painstaking efforts and tremendous sacrifice, and having paid a heavy price, China has succeeded in turning the situation around. It took about a month to initially contain the spread of the epidemic; in around two months, the daily increase in local coronavirus cases fell to single digits; in approximately three months, a decisive victory was secured in the battle to defend Hubei Province and its capital city of Wuhan. With these achievements, China has protected its people's lives, safety and health, and made a significant contribution to safeguarding regional and global public health.
◆On Jan. 23, 2020, Wuhan declared temporary closure of the city's outbound routes.
On Jan. 24, 2020, the Chinese New Year's Eve, the dispatch of national medical teams to Hubei and Wuhan began. In the ensuing period, a total of 346 medical teams, composed of 42,600 medical workers and 965 public health workers from across the country and the military, were dispatched to Hubei Province and the city of Wuhan in particular.
On Jan. 25, 2020, the first day of the Chinese New Year, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, chaired a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. He called for resolute efforts to win the battle to contain the virus with "confidence and solidarity, a science-based approach and targeted measures." He urged Hubei to make epidemic control its top priority and apply more rigorous measures to stem the spread of the virus within the province and beyond. All patients, he said, must be hospitalized without delay, and severe cases must be sent to designated hospitals with sufficient medical resources so that they could be treated by medical experts. By Jan. 29, 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities had activated a level one public health emergency response for comprehensive and tight epidemic prevention and control.
On Jan. 25, 2020, the National Health Commission (NHC) released six sets of guidelines on disease prevention: for general use, tourism, households, public places, public transport and home observation. All air ports were strictly inspected. Anyone with symptoms such as cough and fever was not allowed to pass. There were no so-called large number of COVID-19 patients fleeing overseas. In a short period of time thereafter, the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities outside Hubei where the epidemic was not savage still had outbound flights. Those travelers underwent nucleic acid tests after returning to China, and almost no one was infected with the virus.
China has identified four categories of people -- confirmed cases, suspected cases, febrile patients who might be carriers, and close contacts -- across the country, treated them in designated facilities, and redoubled efforts to increase the capacity of nucleic acid testing. China adopted and adjusted border exit health and quarantine measures in a scientific and timely fashion, and enforced strict health and quarantine measures at points of entry and exit across the country, conducting a strict check of health and body temperature, and carrying out medical inspection, epidemiological investigation, medical screening, and sample monitoring of all inbound and outbound travelers. Any traveler going abroad, who was either confirmed cases or suspected cases, or having symptoms and having contacts with confirmed cases, was transferred to local epidemic control facilities for quarantine and further examination, so as to prevent cross-border transmission. The strictest-ever measures were applied at the border control and non-urgent and nonessential outbound travels by Chinese citizens were suspended.
◆In February 2020, during a press conference in Beijing of a China-WHO joint mission on COVID-19, the expert delegation agreed that the Chinese government had taken timely and effective measures, and that China's strong interventions had significantly changed the epidemic curve, which had not only prevented the spread of the epidemic in China, but also bought precious time for the world. According to a Science report, thanks to those measures, the number of infections in China was reduced by more than 700,000.
Also in that same month, a report of the joint mission was released, according to which, in the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history, so as to contain the virus as rapidly as possible. Strikingly, the report said, there has been the uncompromising rigor of strategy application that proved to be a hallmark in every setting and context where it was examined. Achieving China's exceptional coverage with and adherence to these containment measures has only been possible due to the deep commitment of the Chinese people to collective action in the face of this common threat, the report added, and at a community level this was reflected in the remarkable solidarity of provinces and cities in support of the most vulnerable populations and communities.
◆In May 2020, weekly scientific journal Nature published a study by experts from China, the United States and Britain, and according to their modeling framework, the three major groups of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) (inter-city travel restrictions, early identification and isolation of cases, and contact restrictions and social distancing) taken by China not only contained the spread of COVID-19 in China, but also bought precious time for the world. The study pointed out that without the combined NPIs, the COVID-19 cases in China would likely have shown a 67-fold increase to over 7 million.
◆In May 2020, a study conducted jointly by researchers from Yale University and China's Jinan University showed that measures like city lockdowns, closed community management, quarantine, and restrictions on outdoor activities significantly decreased the virus transmission rate. By mid-February, the spread of the virus had been largely contained in China, it said, adding that by Feb. 29, over 1.4 million infections and 56,000 deaths outside Hubei might have been avoided because of the national and provincial public health measures.
◆In September 2021, U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs, also head of the Lancet COVID-19 Commission, told The Star, a newspaper in Malaysia, in an exclusive interview that China has done an excellent job of suppressing the COVID-19 epidemic and that the world could and should have learned a lot more from China's response. "The United States should learn some good manners to work cooperatively with China, rather than trying to impose its will on that nation," he said.
Vicious slander 15: The Chinese government oppressed "whistleblowers."
Facts and truth: China has provided timely information to the world in an open, transparent and responsible manner. There has been no oppression of so-called "whistleblowers."
◆Zhang Jixian, director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care at Hubei Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, was the first to report COVID-19 cases on Dec. 27, 2019, and was awarded for this contribution.
◆On Dec. 30, 2019, three days after Zhang reported cases of unknown infection, Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist, sent a message to his alumni WeChat group. He claimed that there were "seven confirmed SARS cases," and asked the group not to spread the information. However, leaked screenshots of the conversation spread quickly on the Internet and caused panic. On Jan. 3, 2020, Wuhan's local police authorities asked Li to a police station for inquiry, and a letter of reprimand was issued. In mid-January, Li started to show symptoms of infection. And on Jan. 31, he was confirmed to be infected with COVID-19. On Feb. 7, Li passed away after all rescue measures were exhausted. On the same day, the NHC publicly expressed condolences over his death. The National Supervisory Commission decided to send an inspection group to Wuhan to investigate issues related to Li. On March 19, the inspection group released its findings and held a press briefing. Wuhan's Public Security Bureau announced the decision on the matter, pointing to the misapplication of relevant legal provisions in Li's case, and revoked the reprimand letter.
Li was a CPC member. On March 5, 2020, he was named a "national model healthcare worker in fighting COVID-19." On April 2, he was honored as a martyr. Labeling Li as an "anti-establishment hero" or "awakener" is very disrespectful to Li and his family. It is purely political manipulation with no sense of decency.
The Independent Media Institute, a U.S. organization, conducted a thorough investigation on how the media made unjust reporting about Li, and concluded that the attempt of Western media to describe what happened to Li as evidence of the Chinese government's suppression of information about the virus was simply not logical.
Vicious slander 16: The Chinese government instructed the destruction of the serum of early cases, making it impossible to determine when the spread of the virus started.
Facts and truth: China did not destroy the serum of early cases. The China-WHO joint team on origins tracing has agreed that some serum researches would be conducted once the blood from the Wuhan Blood Center meets the relevant regulatory requirements.
◆In July 2021, Liang Wannian, team leader of the Chinese side of the China-WHO joint team, said that when in Wuhan, the team once invited experts from the Wuhan Blood Center to have a full discussion. Experts from the center told the team that they had kept blood samples, but the samples were kept for the use of responding to possible medical disputes and lawsuits due to blood transfusion. A quite small amount of blood was preserved during the period. In accordance with the Article 31 of the Measures for the Administration of Blood Stations, the term of preservation of a blood sample shall be two years after the whole blood or the component blood is used, and it can only be available for use when there is a medical dispute or lawsuit.
The team agreed that once the blood from the center is used and after the two-year validity term, meaning the samples meet the requirements, they will carry out relevant works. The Chinese side is organizing related experts and institutions to make preparations for the work. So far, they have made several assessments and evaluations on the testing methods and action plan, which will be implemented after the expiry. Related institutions from the Chinese side have also said that once they have the results, they will deliver them to both the Chinese and foreign expert teams.
Vicious slander 17: In January 2020, an official at the Hubei Provincial Health Commission ordered gene sequencing companies and labs to stop testing and to destroy patient samples. On Jan. 3, the NHC issued a nationwide order similar to the one put in place by the Hubei Provincial Health Commission, requiring that samples of the virus be destroyed.
Facts and truth: Since the epidemic broke out, the NHC immediately organized national high-level professional institutions to conduct the parallel identification of the pathogen and, meanwhile, managed the pathogen in accordance with laws and regulations.
◆According to the relevant requirements of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases and the Regulation on the Bio-safety Management of Pathogenic Microbe Labs, China's laws and regulations have set clear requirements for the storage, destruction and experimental activities of highly pathogenic microorganism samples. If the laboratory conditions cannot meet the requirements for the safe preservation of samples, the samples should be destroyed on the spot or transferred to a professional institution for safekeeping. The destruction of early virus samples by relevant agencies complied with relevant measures on infectious disease management.
◆China has always been an active contributor to the sharing of pathogenic microbial strains. In recent years, in order to prevent a global influenza pandemic, and under the World Health Organization framework, China has provided many highly pathogenic influenza virus strains to the United States, Japan, Britain, Australia, Canada and Russia. Regarding the sharing of novel coronavirus strains, China also has an active and open attitude.
4. On the U.S. claim that China has obstructed international investigations and blamed other countries
Vicious slander 18: During the WHO experts' visit to China, China restricted them from entering relevant sites, prevented the team from obtaining "raw data," and refused to provide medical records of the first 174 COVID-19 cases.
Facts and truth: With an open and transparent attitude, China has maintained close communication and cooperation with the WHO on origins tracing and provided strong support and assistance for WHO experts' visit to China.
◆China is the first to earnestly implement World Health Assembly resolutions, and has twice invited WHO experts to China for origins tracing research. Especially in early 2021, 17 leading international experts formed a joint mission with Chinese experts to conduct a 28-day research in China. With the joint efforts of both sides, the WHO in March released a joint report containing the most authoritative, professional and science-based conclusions on origins tracing. China has actively participated in the entire process of origins tracing and played its due leadership role.
◆In February 2021, British zoologist Peter Daszak, also a member of the WHO expert team, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the Chinese side had extensive and candid exchanges with the WHO team. "We've been to all the key places," Daszak said. "Every place we asked to see, everyone we wanted to meet." Daszak also tweeted that he has found trust and openness with the staff of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and that all important questions raised about origins tracing were answered.
◆In July 2021, Liang Wannian said some foreign voices have said that the Chinese side did not provide the data of the first 174 COVID-19 cases. In fact, he said, these patients' data were all displayed and shared during the WHO team's stay in Wuhan. At the time, Liang added, the experts read the materials, did a lot of work to centralize these databases, conducted analysis and research, and together drew the conclusions in the final report. However, China has relevant standing regulations regarding patients' clinical data, including epidemiological survey data and laboratory test data, which involve personal privacy and must not be leaked. At the time, Liang said, the international experts fully understood and believed that this was international routine.
Vicious slander 19: China pressured the WHO into revising the report's conclusions, changing its assessment of the likelihood of "introduction through a laboratory incident" from "unlikely" to "extremely unlikely."
Facts and truth: China has never put pressure on the WHO, and the report's conclusions have been drawn after thorough scientific demonstration.
◆In March 2021, the WHO released the China-WHO joint mission report on origins study. Peter Ben Embarek, foreign head of the international team, said during a news conference that the team was never pressed to remove critical elements in the report, adding that this was something all the scientists on the team stood behind and supported.
◆In July 2021, Liang Wannian said laboratory incidents may occur most likely in two cases. One is artificial synthesis, which scientists explicitly find impossible. The other is leakage and the most important point in this regard is whether the laboratory had the virus or not. The answer is that the Wuhan Institute of Virology did not engage in such research before, Liang said, and the Wuhan side has made it clear. However, for further validation, the expert team specially went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to get details, and conducted field inspections with relevant researchers and management staff. They obtained information particularly about the institute's implementation of standard processes, management and security systems, and about research projects the institute was and is engaged in. With the knowledge, they then talked about evidence that supported the lab incident and evidence that did not. The detailed information was recorded in the joint report. The team finally concluded that the introduction through a laboratory incident was "extremely unlikely."
Vicious slander 20: After the United States restarted the "origins tracing," China has obstructed international investigations and refused to share information.
Facts and truth: Tracing the origins of the virus is a matter of science. China has all along supported and will continue to take part in science-based origins tracing efforts. It opposes using origins tracing as a tool or politicizing scientific issues.
◆With a scientific attitude, China has actively participated in the global origins study, and it has twice invited WHO experts to China for origins tracing research. Chinese experts also voluntarily submitted to the WHO a Chinese proposal for the next phase of origins studies. What China disagrees with is the highly politicized origins tracing, what China refuses is the origins tracing that deviates from the requirements of the WHO resolution, and what China refuses to participate in is the origins tracing that disregards the conclusions and recommendations of the first phase of the study. China is actively implementing the recommendations of the first-phase joint mission report, and conducting follow-up complementary studies.
◆Origins tracing is a complex scientific issue, and it is up to scientists around the world to conduct international scientific research and cooperation. Some in the United States have been clamoring for intelligence-led investigation in disregard of science and facts. The deployment of the intelligence community in origins tracing is in itself a compelling evidence of the politicization of the issue. The international community generally opposes the U.S. actions. More than 80 countries have written to the WHO director-general, issued statements, or sent diplomatic notes to voice their objection to the politicization attempts. Over 300 political parties, social organizations and think tanks from more than 100 countries and regions have submitted a joint statement to the WHO secretariat on opposing the politicization of origins tracing.
Vicious slander 21: China tried to conceal information through various means, and asked the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) to delete the genome sequences of early COVID-19 cases.
Facts and truth: China has never covered up the information, and the relevant allegations have no factual basis, which are purely conspiracy theories.
◆It was reported that Chinese researchers in 2020 deleted some genome sequences of cases from the early stage of the outbreak, which had been uploaded onto the database maintained by the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a branch of the NIH. It was speculated that China has concealed some information about the origins of the virus. The Chinese side has conducted a thorough investigation. The report mentions the deletion of SARS-CoV-2 sequences, which is relevant to a paper titled "Nanopore target sequencing for accurate and comprehensive detection of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses" published by researchers from Wuhan University in the international scientific journal "Small." When they made a submission in March 2020, the sequencing results were needed. Therefore, the researchers uploaded their concrete sequencing results of the virus onto the database of the NCBI.
On June 9, 2020, the journal sent back to the researchers the proofread paper, where they found the information about where they had uploaded the sequencing results of samples from confirmed cases had been deleted. The researchers thought that since the information about the sequencing was deleted, it was unnecessary to keep those sequencing results on the NCBI. They sent an email to the NIH on June 16 to request the removal of the data. The NIH followed the protocol and deleted the data without notice. The researchers had absolutely no need, or intention, to hide or conceal any information. Recently, they uploaded all 242 pieces of sequencing data of 61 COVID-19 samples onto the GSA database built by the China National Center for Bioinformation, which is open to global researchers.
It is also understood that the earliest sampling in the case was done on Jan. 30, 2020, some time after the initial outbreak. So the sequences cannot count as early ones and thus have limited value or information regarding the study of SARS-CoV-2 origins. However, Jesse Bloom, a U.S. researcher with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, fabricated the conspiracy theory that this was an attempted cover-up, without any confirmation from the Chinese researchers and with absolutely no understanding the background context of the matter. His actions deviated from the truth and violated scientific ethics, and have been criticized by experts from various countries.
Vicious slander 22: China has suppressed the origins tracing by domestic scientists, censored the publication of papers related to origins tracing, and prohibited the staff of the Wuhan Institute of Virology from freely accepting interviews.
Facts and truth: China has never suppressed its scientists or reviewed papers involving origins tracing, but actively organized scientists to carry out origins-tracing work instead. Chinese scientists have actively published papers on origins tracing, and the staff of the Wuhan Institute of Virology have accepted interviews many times.
◆Following the outbreak of the epidemic, Chinese scientists carried out extensive and in-depth origins-tracing work under the leadership of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the NHC and other relevant departments before the joint research launched by the WHO.
◆In June 2020, Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang said that by the end of May 2020, Chinese scientists had published 206 papers, overseas research teams published 282 papers, and Chinese, U.S. and British scientists jointly published 19 papers on the origins tracing. A global information database has been built, collecting 36,442 COVID-19 gene sequences shared worldwide, of which 18,967 are high-quality virus sequences.
◆Since 2020, Director of the Wuhan Branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Yuan Zhiming, Director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology Wang Yanyi, and researcher with the institute Shi Zhengli, among others, have accepted many interviews, including in-depth ones with foreign media outlets like Reuters, Science and NBC.