Even more than a year after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed over 23 lakh lives so far across the globe, we are none the wiser about the origins of the novel coronavirus. Wrapping up its nearly four-week-long visit to Wuhan, a team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dismissed as ‘unlikely’ the theory that the virus leaked from a lab in the Chinese city where the first cases were detected. According to the team members, the virus was ‘most likely’ to have been transmitted from an animal to humans. The findings, though tentative, seem to buttress the Chinese government’s protestations of innocence. Repeatedly accused by the US and other countries of covering up and not sharing information about the virus with the world, China has not only been denying any wrongdoing but also claiming that the virus may have originated in Europe or the US.
It was only last month that the WHO team, assisted by Chinese scientists, managed to land in Wuhan after several months of negotiations. The inordinate delay in initiating the probe rightly drew flak from the international community. America, the country worst affected by the pandemic, has announced to scrutinise the WHO report, while avoiding any conclusive comment on whether the experts received ‘full cooperation’ from China or not.
Transparency is a prerequisite for this investigation as the entire world is looking to the WHO to provide definitive answers. China’s role has apparently been dubious in more ways than one. India, which has lost more than 1.55 lakh of its citizens to Covid-19, is also upset about Beijing’s recent efforts to belittle New Delhi’s vaccine diplomacy, besides the supply of allegedly faulty rapid testing kits and substandard PPE (personal protective equipment) last year. With the pandemic far from over, China’s culpability or otherwise must be established beyond any doubt, and that too at the earliest. Getting to the bottom of the matter is also critical to help humankind prepare itself better for — or even prevent — such biological catastrophes.