In a report published on July 22, The Economist, a well-known British magazine, argued that people may be looking in the wrong direction in tracing the origin of the new coronaviru, and should pay more attention to China’s neighbors, especially those in Southeast Asia, such as Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.
According to the report, the media interviewed a number of virologists.
Peter Darsak, head of EcoHealth Alliance, an academic group that studies any animals that might be carrying the virus, told reporters that “bats in Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam may have similar SARS-related coronaviruses, and some of them are likely to be close to COVID-19.”
After the SARS outbreak in 2003, scientists put a lot of effort into the coronavirus, Dr. Dasak said.
The agency has also taken samples from nearly 16,000 bats and found hundreds of coronaviruses close to or related to SARS.
“Some bats that are known to inhabit China have coronavirus and seem to be particularly susceptible to transmission to humans,” he said.
But scientists have rarely taken bat samples from Southeast Asian countries in the past, leading to a lack of academic attention and understanding, Dasak said.
Thus, novel Coronavirus origin investigation may be considered to expand beyond China and sample and analyze a variety of game markets, farms, traders and hunters outside China.
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, another virus-research organisation, agrees.
Farrar, a PhD from Oxford University, has lived and worked in Vietnam for more than 18 years.
He speculated that novel Coronavirus or other coronavirus close to it might have been lurking in southeast Asia and south China for many years and now only need to confirm the intermediate host.
Farrar added that the bats’ harsh habitat, both their own and their feces, is a prime breeding ground for coronaviruses.
These viruses can reach humans and spread through other wildlife and game markets.
John Bell, a professor of medicine at Oxford University, offers an interesting observation.
As a rule of thumb, Bell said, Vietnam is often expected to be the epicenter of coVID-19, especially since it borders China, but the opposite has happened.
“Vietnam has a population of nearly 100 million, but only over 300 confirmed cases and zero deaths,” he said.
“What is even more surprising is that the Vietnamese government has not actually adopted a very strict policy of blockade.”
Bell adds that no one can explain why Vietnam has such a low coVID-19 rate.
But bell says, “One explanation that may make sense is that novel Coronavirus or any other coronavirus has novel immunity to Vietnamese people, so it did not cause any havoc in Vietnam when the novel coronavirus or other coronavirus started.
“When it spread to central China, people there were not immune to it, so the power of novel Coronavirus came through.”
As of July 23, Vietnam had a total of 19,412 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 365 cured cases, still a record of zero deaths, and no cases of local or community transmission have been detected for more than three months, according to the latest data released by the Vietnamese health authorities.
The report also said that under the arrangement of the Chinese government, who has planned to send a team of experts to China in August to trace the source.
On July 22, foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin answered questions from the media and said once again:
Since the outbreak, China and the WHO have maintained close communication and cooperation.
At present, China is still in the critical stage of preventing the import of coVID-19 and the rebound of coVID-19 in China.
Under such circumstances, China has taken the lead in agreeing to carry out scientific cooperation with the WHO on the issue of traceability and invited EXPERTS from the WHO to discuss the issue together. This is to support the global response to the epidemic more effectively and make new contributions to international cooperation against the epidemic and global health.
This fully demonstrates China’s open, transparent and responsible attitude.
Mr. Ryan, executive Director of WHO’s Emergency programs, has said that inviting an international team to join and work openly with any country is an additional step.
We also hope that all relevant countries, like China, will adopt a positive attitude and carry out relevant cooperation with the WHO.