The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two
Virus hunters can spend years tracing a virus. But the origins of the coronavirus appear clear to all except the most extreme of conspiracy theorists.
The Covid-19 pandemic came from a virus, shaped like a crown (corōna in Latin), hence named Coronavirus.
In this video Stephen Fry discusses the most recent analysis from the DDC (Department of Disease Control) on the future of this pandemic. Quick summary – we have at least two years of dealing with this before it ceases to kill at a grim rate.
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Since 2015, WHO has avoided using names of people, places, animals, food, culture, occupation, etc., to name illnesses. For this one, the “year” was used for differentiation, COVID-19.
There are genetic clues for this coronavirus in bats, a common host for zoonotic diseases. “This is a product of nature,” says Tulane virologist Robert Garry. Here are three takeaways
Researchers compared the genome of this coronavirus to a library of known viruses — and found a 96% genetic match with coronavirus samples from horseshoe bats in China. Strong evidence that this virus, like SARS and Ebola, finds a natural host in bats.
The virus likely evolved through natural selection in another animal. There’s a genetic match with coronaviruses in pangolins.
As the crisis roars on, so have debates about China’s role in it. Based on what is known, it is clear that some Chinese officials made a major error in late December and early January, when they tried to prevent disclosures of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, even silencing health-care workers who tried to sound the alarm.
China’s leaders will have to live with these mistakes. But it is unlikely that they could have done anything further to stop the spread of the virus. As soon as it was out of Wuhan it was heading globally.
What is less clear is why other countries think it is in their interest to keep referring to China’s initial errors, rather than working toward solutions.
For some governments, naming and shaming China appears to be a ploy to divert attention from their own lack of preparedness. Equally concerning is the growing criticism of the World Health Organization, not least by US President Donald Trump, who has attacked the organization for supposedly failing to hold the Chinese government to account.
There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim that the WHO hid information at China’s behest. The US is well represented in the top ranks of the organisation. There were more than a dozen officials from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) embedded in the WHO in January and February.
US health leaders were part of regular conference calls, weekly or twice weekly, beginning on 7 January. From 10 January those calls included warnings about the risk of human-to-human transmission.
This is the time to organize a comprehensive coordinated response to the dual health and economic crises unleashed by the coronavirus.
Instead the USA ceases its contributions to the WHO budget – at the very time when it is most needed by the one organisation that has the expertise and resources to bring science together to seek a vaccine.
The blame game is not just unhelpful but dangerous. There will no doubt be an escalation of the blame game up to the date of the US election on November 3rd.
There is no other global health organization with the capacity to confront the pandemic, the WHO will remain at the center of the response, whether certain political leaders like it or not.
There is a comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis. Everyone knows that crisis started with an unsustainable US housing bubble, which had been fed by foreign savings, owing to the lack of domestic savings in the United States. When the bubble finally burst, many other countries sustained more harm than the US did, just as the COVID-19 pandemic has hit some countries much harder than it hit China.
Yet, few countries around the world sought to single out the US for presiding over a massively destructive housing bubble and a financial crisis that is still felt today. In the end a strong US economy is good for other nations so the US rebound was in all our best interests.
The other theory coming out of the USA is that the virus could have originated in a Wuhan laboratory, the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Pentagon has said that the “weight of evidence” so far points towards “natural” origins.
Similarly in tit-for-tat accusations Chinese officials have circulated conspiracy theories suggesting the virus was engineered in a US bioweapons laboratory.
That’s where we are. Nationalism is fired up in both China and the USA fed by a mischief-spreading media in both countries.
I think we are at the start of a very dangerous year where threats to health and to the economy become weapons in a political game.
The Lancet Coronavirus Center:
Imperial College London Report:
John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center:
Imperial College London Covid-19 Reports:
Global Coronavirus Research gathered by the WHO:
Collaborative study published in the Lancet:
William Hanage full calculations:
Simulating an Epidemic (less scientific, but very interesting):
Lancet Editor on UK national scandal: