The uncomfortable backpedaling in most of the mainstream media over the probable origins of the novel coronavirus continues apace. Scientists attempting to conduct research inside China have been met with endless stonewalling and even harassment, leading them to complain to reporters about all of the obfuscation and secrecy on the part of the Chinese Communist Party. One of the more recent examples comes to us, not from the city of Wuhan, but an abandoned mine shaft in southern China that is home to a colony of bats. Researchers there are attempting to gather samples of a strain of the virus that is believed to be the most closely related to the original COVID virus currently ravaging humans around the planet. But as the Associated Press learned this week, Chinese authorities are blocking nearly all of their efforts and clamping down on what research information can or can’t be shared with the public.
The area is of intense scientific interest because it may hold clues to the origins of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide. Yet for scientists and journalists, it has become a black hole of no information because of political sensitivity and secrecy.
A bat research team visiting recently managed to take samples but had them confiscated, two people familiar with the matter said. Specialists in coronaviruses have been ordered not to speak to the press. And a team of Associated Press journalists was tailed by plainclothes police in multiple cars who blocked access to roads and sites in late November.
So the research team actually made it into the cave and collected the samples, but upon exiting, Chinese officials confiscated them. The police, wearing no uniforms and driving unmarked cars, follow them around every time they leave their hotels. Anyone who actually does manage to get any scientific research done is being forced to coordinate their work with the Chinese military, and a panel set up by direct orders from Xi Jinping reviews all of their work before it is approved for publication.
These are the researchers who are specifically looking at bats in the wild. Wouldn’t you think that the Chinese government would be thrilled to have them publish their work? After all, China is desperate to stop anyone from suggesting that the virus broke out from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and blame the pandemic either on bats or the United States, right? Unless, of course, that research turns out to once again show that there’s no match between the virus in the bats and the human version… again. (They have yet to find one example supporting the wet market theory.)
It’s gotten bad enough that even the World Health Organization is now admitting they were stonewalled. And considering how much the WHO and the UN were doing backflips to shift the blame previously, the situation must be growing rather dire.
But behind the scenes, it was a much different story, one of significant delays by China and considerable frustration among WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus, The Associated Press has found.
Despite the plaudits, China in fact sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information. Tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents.
That’s a different tone than both the media and the WHO took not all that long ago. As you may recall, back in January and February, the WHO was singing the praises of the Chinese government for its “cooperation and transparency” during the early stages of the investigation. The first report they released (after barely two weeks of work during which they were given no access to the lab) rated the likelihood of various, competing theories as to the virus’ origin. The report claimed that bats or pangolins were “most likely” to have been the root cause, while a leak from a laboratory was “extremely unlikely.”
The media ate that up with a spoon and began accusing anyone who suggested the lab origin theory of “spreading medical misinformation.” People were deplatformed from social media for using the phrase “Wuhan Institute of Virology.” But now we have one report after another saying that the bat/pangolin research is coming up empty while the genetic matching with laboratory specimens is looking stronger and stronger. So who has actually been peddling medical misinformation all of this time? This has been yet another embarrassing failure of much of the mainstream media to follow the science and instead play politics with information that remains literally a matter of life and death.