Wuhan: A senior Chinese disease expert and an epidemiologist demanded that the second phase of probe into the origins of deadly coronavirus should be conducted in the United States after a study showed the virus could have been circulating there as early as December 2019, according to a Chinese state media outlet.
Zeng Guang, the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reportedly told media that the US was slow to test people for Covid-19 at an early stage of the pandemic and it possesses many biological laboratories all around the world.
“All bio-weapons related subjects that the country has should be subject to scrutiny,” Global Times quoted Zeng as saying.
China’s attempt to put blame on US for the devastating pandemic comes after the US National Institutes for Health (NIH) published a study that showed at least seven people in five states were infected with Sars-CoV-2 weeks before the country reported its first official cases. The researchers analysed more than 24,000 stored blood samples collected from across 50 US states between January 2 and March 18, 2020, through the NIH’s ‘All of Us Research Program’.
As per the new findings of the study, researchers detected antibodies against Sars-CoV-2 in the samples of nine participants, all of them from outside the major urban hotspots of Seattle and New York City, believed to be key points of entry of the virus in the US. The study suggests that the positive samples came as early as January 7 from participants in Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The origin of the coronavirus has become a source of political tension between China and the United States, which has further heightened after the US demanded a transparent second phase of investigation in China amid claims of possible virus leak at a Wuhan laboratory. Following an investigation by an international team of experts into the virus origins, a joint study by China and the World Health Organization (WHO) was published in March that said Covid-19 most likely originated in the country’s wildlife trade, dismissing the lab leak theory as “extremely unlikely”.
Citing virus outbreaks in China linked to the imported cold chain, the study also suggested that Sars-CoV-2 can persist in conditions found in frozen food, packaging and cold-chain products. While the report said that the findings raise the possibility for different potential pathways of introduction, Beijing promoted the theory that Covid-19 entered China from overseas via contaminated frozen food.