- Chinese scientists claim to have evidence Covid did not originate in the country
- Researchers say their evidence points to virus emerging in Bangladesh, the USA, Greece, Australia, India, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia or Serbia
- They say it is likely the virus originated in India during heatwave last summer
- It is not the first time China has pointed the finger of blame elsewhere, previously accusing the US and Italy of being the source
A team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences argues the virus likely originated in India in summer 2019 – jumping from animals to humans via contaminated water – before travelling unnoticed to Wuhan, where it was first detected.
But David Robertson, and expert from Glasgow University, called the paper ‘very flawed’ and concluded ‘it adds nothing to our understanding of coronavirus’.
It is not the first time that Chinese authorities have pointed the finger of blame elsewhere – suggesting, largely without evidence, that both Italy and the US could be the site of the original infection And it comes against a backdrop of increased political tensions between India and China, with troops attacking each-other along a disputed border.
The WHO is currently looking for the source of coronavirus in China, while the body of scientific evidence suggests the disease originated there.
In their paper, the Chinese team use phylogenetic analysis – a study of how a virus mutates – to attempt to trace the origins of Covid-19. Viruses, like all cells, mutate as they reproduce, meaning tiny changes occur in their DNA each time they replicate themselves.
The scientists argue that it should therefore be possible to track down the original version of the virus by finding the sample with the fewest mutations. They say that using this method rules out the virus found in Wuhan as the ‘original’ virus, and instead points to eight other countries: Bangladesh, the USA, Greece, Australia, India, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia or Serbia.
Researchers go on to argue that because India and Bangladesh both recorded samples with low mutations and are geographic neighbours, it is likely that the first transmission occurred there. By estimating the amount of time it takes for the virus to mutate once, and comparing that to the samples taken there, they also theorise that the virus first emerged there in July or August 2019.
They go on to say: ‘From May to June 2019, the second longest recorded heat wave had rampaged in northern-central India and Pakistan, which created a serious water crisis in this region.
‘The water shortage made wild animals such as monkeys engage in the deadly fight over water among each other and would have surely increased the chance of human-wild animal interactions.
‘We speculated that the [animal to human] transmission of SARS-CoV-2 might be associated with this unusual heat wave.’
The great cover-up of China: Beijing punished Covid whistleblower and claimed it came from US – so what CAN we believe?
Doctors in China, including Li Wenliang, began reporting the existence of a new type of respiratory infection that was similar to SARS in early December last year.
But rather than publicise the reports and warn the public, Chinese police hauled Wenliang and eight of his colleagues who had been posting about the virus online in for questioning.
Wenliang, who would later die from the virus, was forced to sign a document admitting the information he published was false.
While China has been widely-praised for a draconian lockdown that helped slow the spread of the virus, evidence suggests that the country could have acted much quicker to prevent the spread.