It was November 2019 when the patient zero fell prey to the corona virus in a Chinese city called Wuhan. Several other cases were reported one after the other but reportedly, the Chinese doctors were not aware of the fact that a new virus has already wreaked havoc in Wuhan and considered pneumonia to be the cause behind people’s illness. After a lot of chaos, China announced that a new virus, the corona virus has come into existence and it spreads through bats.
More than a year has gone by, people across the globe have adapted to their new lifestyles. People are now adept to the ‘new normal’ which comprises wearing face masks and an incessant use of hand sanitizers along with washing their hands at regular intervals daily while living inside their homes and avoiding public gatherings. A lot has changed for everyone and many succumbed to their illness and bade goodbye to the world because of a microscopic yet mighty organism.
But the moot point remains the same. Is the corona virus a natural virus which spreads through bats and did COVID-19 turn into a pandemic because of a Chinese eating a bat and relishing its taste? Or is the virus man made, strategically prepared in a laboratory at Wuhan to be used as a biological weapon against the world? The laymen cannot carry out an investigation to unravel this mystery but the WHO or the World Health Organization finally decided to take the onus on itself.
In the last week of January, a team of WHO scientists landed up in Wuhan to dig deeper into the controversial matter. This much- awaited trip was initially delayed by China but finally began on the 25th of January. The team is looking into the plausible reasons which gave birth to the virus and then to the deadly pandemic and is also keen to discover ways to prevent similar pandemics in the future. The investigation and China’s level of cooperation will and should definitely be under serious public scrutiny. The fact that the investigation began after a year of the breakout raises questions over the Chinese government’s lack of transparency in dealing with the virus. Earlier, Donald Trump, the ex-president of the USA, had openly accused China of using the virus as a biological weapon which led to political quarrels between the administrations of the two nations.
Another incident which raised the doubts of people across the globe was China’s alleged move at stifling the voice of a whistle-blower who was eager to alert people about the virus and its outbreak. At the end of December 2019, Dr. Li Wenliang who was 34, tried to send a message to his colleagues about the outbreak. Surprisingly, three days later the police paid him a visit and asked him to stop. He then returned to work and caught the virus from a patient and unfortunately, Wenliang lost his life to the virus after spending three weeks admitted to a hospital. He was lauded and hailed by people across the globe for trying his best to alert everyone about the imminent threat of a major outbreak, but his warnings were not paid heed to and he was blatantly accused of spreading false rumours!
And thus, China faced heavy backlash for allegedly downplaying the severity of the initial outbreak and for not acting on time to alert the WHO of evidence of human-to- human transmission. It is believed that China wanted strict control over information about the pandemic. In December, a citizen journalist was sentenced to four years in prison for reporting on the early outbreak in the city of Wuhan.
Until now, not much information regarding the ongoing investigation has been divulged, but one major focus is to establish a timeline of events and determine where there are still lacunas in knowledge. The team travelled to Wuhan and published a 40- page report detailing what was known then about the virus transmission and how it could be contained.
During the early days, not only China but the WHO saw scathing comments being made against it for not taking the necessary action to warn the rest of the world about the virus and for being heavily reliant on information coming from the Chinese officials. Criticizing the WHO, Donald Trump called it a ‘puppet of China’ and announced that the USA would withdraw its funding for the agency.
While the WHO officials believe that the Chinese administration will provide complete cooperation, Beijing is known to have controlled the information about the virus. The Chinese Communist Party has clamped down any research on the origins of the virus making it compulsory for all findings to be approved by a task force which directly reports to president Xi Jinping.
Owing to the secretive nature of the activities of the Chinese administration, many theories suggesting the fact that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became a major talking point. Although no evidence pointing towards something like this has still come out, the team of researchers has categorically stated that if that’s where the investigation would take them to as a hypothesis, it won’t be ruled out.
As a latest development, the team visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology on 3rd February 2021, which is the lab in question. Earlier, on 31st January, the researchers had also visited the now disinfected and shuttered Huanan seafood market which is the place of origin of the outbreak.
While the WHO team is busy solving the mystery, millions of people around the world are keeping an eye on their actions and hope that they will soon find the answers to their valid questions and believe that China will have to pay the price if found guilty, after all, the whole world seeks justice for all the ordeals suffered by them, all through the last year.