Congress takes up COVID origins: A primer on the debate so far

It’s been more than three years since a novel coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China, sparking a global pandemic that’s been blamed for 6.8 million deaths. Yet there is still a rancorous debate over how it began. 

U.S. public health officials and many scientists say the available evidence strongly indicates that the virus spilled over from wildlife to humans, as happened in many previous outbreaks. They consider the question virtually settled.

But a lack of transparency from China – as well as, critics charge, the United States – has allowed speculation to persist that it could have started with a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). And whether or not a lab leak is to blame, critics say the failure to be forthcoming and to disclose conflicts of interests has undermined the public trust needed to build consensus and move forward.

Why We Wrote This

House Republicans say they are trying to get needed transparency on how the pandemic started, but others worry a partisan probe will further muddy the waters.

The stakes are immense, with U.S.-China relations and funding for scientific research and pandemic prevention all hanging in the balance. Lawmakers, public interest groups, and scientists concerned about risky lab practices argue that if a lab leak occurred, it’s vital to understand what happened and adjust international protocols. Scientists convinced of a spillover, however, worry that giving oxygen to what they see as a demonstrably incorrect hypothesis could put a damper on virus research that could help prevent future pandemics. 

For better or worse, House Republicans are now unleashing Congress’ investigatory powers. The first hearing, on developing more capabilities for quickly determining a pandemic’s origin, will be held tomorrow, Feb. 1.

Source link

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: