Die Covid-Schande der WHO – Ihre Untersuchung der Pandemie war kaum mehr als eine Beschwichtigung Pekings

By Ian Birrell ist ein preisgekrönter ausländischer Reporter und Kolumnist. Mit Damon Albarn ist er Gründer von Africa Express. –  10. Februar 2021 – UNHERD MAGAZINE

Seit Beginn der Pandemie hat China verschiedene Erzählungen über seine möglichen Ursprünge gefördert. Erstens machten die Top-Wissenschaftler des Landes einen Wuhan-Markt für den Verkauf von Wildtieren verantwortlich, der schnell bereinigt und alle Proben geheim gehalten wurde. Dann deuteten die Beamten an, dass die verheerende Krankheit von außerhalb der Stadt gekommen sein könnte, und zeigten sogar mit dem Finger auf ein mögliches Laborleck – von einem US-Militärstützpunkt in Maryland und nicht innerhalb ihrer eigenen Grenzen. In jüngerer Zeit, nach der Schlachtung infizierter Nerche auf landwirtschaftlichen Betrieben in Europa, konzentrierten sich prominente Persönlichkeiten auf diese pelzigen Säugetiere als Wirte des Virus, während sie mit einer anderen Theorie, dass Covid auf gekühlte oder gefrorene Lebensmittel importiert worden sein könnte, hart durchforstet wurden.

Diese Ideen wurden niedergeschlagen oder sind nicht geflogen. Mehrere Studien zeigten, dass Sars-CoV-2 – der seltsame neue Coronavirus-Stamm – wahrscheinlich nicht vom Markt kam, was zu einer formellen Ablehnung dieses Vorschlags durch Pekings Top-Experte im vergangenen Mai führte. Neuere Forschungen von molekularen Epidemiologen bewerteten Tausende von Proben von infizierten Patienten, um den “Vorläufer” zu schließen, der Ende Oktober in China auftauchte. Andere Wissenschaftler sagen, dass es keine Hinweise auf einen Ursprung in Nerz gibt. Und selbst Kristian Andersen, ein prominenter US-Professor für Immunologie und Mikrobiologie, der Laborlecktheorien ablehnt, sagte, er halte die Daten, die das Virus mit Tiefkühlkost verbinden, nicht für “glaubwürdig”.

Doch als die Weltgesundheitsorganisation (WHO) ihre Pressekonferenz in Wuhan abhielt, um die überraschend schnellen ersten Ergebnisse ihrer Untersuchung der Ursprünge bekannt zu geben, wurde viel über den Markt gesprochen – obwohl er erklärte, dass dies nicht der Geburtsort sei – zusammen mit dem Schweben dieser Vorstellung, dass Nerz miteinander verbunden werden könnte. Es gab Diskussionen über Tiefkühlkost, Überlegungen, dass diese Krankheit außerhalb Chinas entstanden sein könnte, starke Konzentration auf die Notwendigkeit, die zwischengelagerte Tierische Quelle als die “wahrscheinlichste” Quelle zu finden. Aber sie gestand auch, dass es nicht gelungen ist, Irgendwelche Hinweise zu finden, die diese populäre Theorie stützen, und gaben sogar zu, dass das Testen von Tausenden von Proben von Partituren verschiedener Arten keine positiven Ergebnisse hervorließ.


The speakers said, rightly, there is much work to do in tracing the source. This is a vital quest to help guard against future — and potentially worse — pandemics. Yet these scientists were certain on one aspect of their investigation: this disease did not leak from one of the three laboratories in Wuhan studying bats and bat-borne coronaviruses. Never mind the extraordinary coincidence of an outbreak almost certainly connected to creatures living hundreds of miles away in the caves of southern China occurring in the city that was host to Asia’s top research centre into such viruses. The experts were adamant: there is no need for further inquiries into this concept since it is “extremely unlikely” to be the cause of this global catastrophe.

It was no surprise to hear such claims from Liang Wannian, the Chinese professor on the podium. He is, after all, head of the Covid-19 panel at their National Health Commission who led Beijing’s response to the crisis. He has defended his government’s “decisive” approach, despite the silencing of doctors trying to warn their fellow citizens, the denials of human transmission, the deletions of key data and the reluctance to share genetic sequencing. This Communist apparatchik was never going to be the most dispassionate person probing the pandemic origins. Predictably, he pushed from the outset an unproven idea this disease might have started beyond his country’s borders. He also claimed the earliest confirmed cases were December 8 2019, conflicting with his own nation’s main health body, a key early study by Chinese scientists in The Lancet and a well-sourced leak in the South China Morning Post that dated the first incidence back to November 17.

Yet how shameful to see the WHO — a branch of the United Nations tasked with protection of public health — diminish itself again by kowtowing to China’s dictatorial regime in such craven style. Beijing fiercely resisted this mission for months, even imposing sanctions on Australia after it called for such an inquiry. It gave consent after considerable haggling in return for the right to vet the team of scientists. Lo and behold, those picked included the British charity chief Peter Daszak, who has worked with Wuhan scientists for years on their controversial experiments and led efforts to dismiss claims of any lab leak as “baseless”. Now suddenly this is a “WHO-China Joint Study” — and it seems the chosen experts see their task as selling China’s story to the planet.



China is not the hero in this darkest hour



So why is WHO so dismissive of a possible lab leak? After all, Peter Ben Embarek, the Danish food safety scientist leading its mission, explained that all the work to identify the origin of Covid-19 continues to point towards a natural viral reservoir in bats — but accepted they were unlikely to have been flying over Wuhan. He said his team held a “very long, frank, open discussion with the management and the staff” at Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), listened to their description of research carried out, accepted assurances that they did not posses Sars-Cov-2 in their virus banks, examined health data they were given, took the view such leaks are rare and then decided that microscopic pathogens could not escape from such a high-secure unit. “It was very unlikely that anything could escape from such a place,” he said firmly.

It is sweet these international scientists are so trusting of their Chinese colleagues, despite all the evidence of cover-up with the previous Sars epidemic soon after the turn of this century and then again in initial weeks of this pandemic. But this hardly sounds the most forensic, evidence-based approach given the seismic importance of their conclusions. We know the controlling nature of Chinese state repression. We know there have been many leaks before from labs, including 11 Sars infections from a top-security Beijing research centre in 2004. We know there were safety concerns since they were admitted by WIV’s head of security in a journal shortly before the outbreak. We know databases of unpublished viruses were hidden from outsiders. And we know that for all the WHO team’s faith in the WIV security, much of their Sars research was carried out at lower security labs in the city,

We also know scientists in Wuhan initially feared the novel coronavirus leaked from their lab. We know they were performing risky “gain of function” research that forces evolution of viruses, which some scientists have long feared might spark pandemic. We know they were combining snippets from different strains of bat coronaviruses and creating chimeric diseases using cloning techniques that display no sign of human manipulation. We know they were injecting viruses into “humanised mice” and trying to determine how bat diseases jump the barrier between species. We know also this new disease was well adapted to human transmission, possessing a mutation that allows its spike protein to bind to many human cells that is not found on similar types of coronaviruses. And we know two Chinese scientists in February claimed “the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan” before their paper was hastily deleted.



China’s plan for medical domination



Then there are the issues swirling around Shi Zhingli, Wuhan’s famed expert known as “Batwoman” for her sample-gathering trips in southern China, that have raised suspicions after being winkled out by Drastic, a group of researchers and scientists. Her actions include claiming three miners died of a fungal infection in 2012, when it later emerged they died from a respiratory disease similar to Covid that they caught clearing bat droppings in one of those caves. She obscured a link to their fatalities when publishing an influential Nature paper about the closest known relative to Sars-Cov-2 — and altered the name of this virus without mention of her action in that paper, widely taken as indication of natural transmission. Now she pushes ideas of transmission by mink and, yes, frozen food.

None of this amounts to proof. Science, like journalism, should rely on evidence and facts. And it is entirely possible that — as a majority of scientists believe — this cruel new virus emerged naturally from Mother Nature’s bosom, even if both China and the WHO experts have failed so far to find any animal source. There is also no doubt that Donald Trump’s botched intervention injected this important debate with lethal toxicity. Yet the US government in a sober statement from the State Department claimed it has “reason to believe” WIV researchers fell sick with Covid-like symptoms in autumn 2019 “before the first identified case of the outbreak”. We see also a growing number of highly-credible experts putting heads over the parapet to say that a leak is a plausible hypothesis deserving investigation. I have even spoken to senior figures in WHO who freely accept the leak possibility. Yet, instead, we are getting this patsy inquiry that accepts possibility of direct infection from bats but discounts the chance of infection during collection of their faeces or research into their diseases.

That charade of a press conference — after 12 days wandering around Wuhan that included visiting a propaganda exhibition celebrating China’s recovery — was simply embarrassing. There is also a major flaw in the logic expressed at the event. The WHO stance is based on placing faith in China, despite all the evidence that this is a state that cannot be trusted — whether lying about its horrific treatment of minorities in Xinjiang, breaking a historic deal with Britain to protect freedom in Hong Kong or silencing noble doctors trying to alert the world to looming disaster. Yet if a leak was covered up, is it possible to trust such a government? So if WHO is ruling out the likelihood of a laboratory accident, it must immediately release all data and evidence supporting its case.

“Ein Untersuchungsprozess sollte transparent, kollaborativ, international und, soweit möglich, ohne politisches Interesse sein”, schrieb David Relman, Biosicherheitsexperte an der Stanford University, in einer hervorragenden Analyse der Herkunftsszenarien. “Ohne diese Eigenschaften wird es nicht glaubwürdig, vertrauenswürdig oder effektiv sein.” Dieser renommierte Wissenschaftler hat die Koinzidenz des weltweit größten Endlagers von Fledermaus-Coronaviren in der Stadt angesprochen, die eine globale Pandemie hervorbrachte. “Ein vollständigeres Verständnis der Ursprünge von Covid – 19 dient eindeutig den Interessen jedes Menschen in jedem Land des Planeten”, sagte er prägnant. Stattdessen scheinen wir die Ankunft dieser neuen Krankheit, die ein rätselhaftes Geheimnis bleibt, nicht näher zu verstehen, während wir Zeuge einer grotesken Beschwichtigung der chinesischen Diktatur durch ein zunehmend diskreditiertes UN-Gremium werden.