What is the butterfly effect that originated coronavirus? Covid-19 has been spreading all over the world for over a year now. Over 207 million people have been infected worldwide and about 4.4 million people have died to the virus. Half the world population has been put in lockdown this past spring, and the world is juggling between lockdown and curfew and daily life habits look like a masked ball. But how did it all started?
Many hypotheses have been made since the epidemic broke out. But the mystery around the origins of the virus remains untouched. But when will we see things clearer then? The World Health Organization is on it.
In early February, the organization claimed: “all hypotheses are on the table”. In March, envoys went to Wuhan, China, the alleged starting point of the epidemic, to try and find out more on the origins of the pandemic. This investigation did not enable them to find hypotheses or satisfactory answers about the many questions scientists still have about the epidemic.
Laboratory leak? Transmission from an animal like a bat? WHO experts have found no conclusive proof enabling to lead investigations towards one or the other of these hypotheses. Although they have not dropped all hope to discover where Covid-19 has originated from, scientists are getting alarmed: the investigation is at "a standstill" and it is becoming urgent to relaunch it seriously with all the help and international cooperation possible.
In a platform published in Nature, scientists who took part in the WHO's investigation want to make international leaders take action: "The search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is at a critical juncture. [...] Crucially, the window is rapidly closing [...]. SARS-CoV-2 antibodies wane, so collecting further samples and testing people who might have been exposed before December 2019 will yield diminishing returns", the authors warn in the text as written by Marion Koopans (the Netherlands), Peter Daszak (United-Kingdom), Hung Nguyen-Viet (Vietnam), and Farag El Moubasher (Qatar).
On Tuesday August 24, American medias revealed the existence of a second report, as ordered by President Joe Biden to the intelligence agency, aiming at discovering where the pandemic has originated from. This report, like WHO's, gives no sure answer.
The American president is said to have asked his experts to find a solid explanation in 90 days. The report brings nothing more than what the WHO scientists have found already, and gives the same four hypotheses: mutation of an animal virus transmitted through different animals, direct transmission without intermediary animal, transmission through food (such as frozen meat for intance), and last but not least, an accidental laboratory leak that remains "extremely unlikely", according to experts.
The revelation of this report has cast a chill on relationships between Beijing and Washington. China - highly irritated by the idea of being called out and accused of having originated this epidemic - was already not willing to let the WHO experts investigate in the country. It refuses the new WHO's investigation application as they wished to send over a second investigating team.
The American report considers the failure of the investigation about where the virus comes from is mostly because of China not giving enough data to investigators. As for Beijing, they claim they have fully collaborated and refuses new investigations in the country, judging reports issued are enough to clear the country.
This lack of international harmony could harm scientists' work, as they fear they might never find where coronavirus originates from.