Unfolding Corona mystery

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RASHID A MUGHAL

C OVID-19 continues its dreadful, untamed, un controlled, scary ravages and continues to dev astates every country. Efforts at all levels are being made to reduce the damage but the death toll keeps rising everywhere in 204 countries of the world. Two weeks ago it was Italy but now America is the epicentre of this virus from East coast to West. On 12 April 2000 people fell victim to this novel virus across USA. As the death toll spirals so does the conspiracy theories about the origin and spread of this virus on the media, every day. America blaming China and China blaming America for “developing” and spreading of this deadly virus, as part of a sinister “Biological” warfare plan. Some of these appeal to the reason too. Some are supported by facts to ponder over and some with strong and valid arguments. Let us examine these one by one. Donald Trump has been calling this “China Virus” from day one. He believes the virus came from Chinese city of Wuhan from a market selling dog and bat meat. He also blames China for not putting in place proper checks due to which the virus spread in neighbouring South Korea, Japan and then in Europe, America, Africa, Australia and other countries of the World. China, on the other hand, is blaming America for “developing” and “releasing” this virus , intentionally, in China to damage its economy. Both arguments have their merits to some extent. At the same time there has been a lot of talk on the media about Bill Gates Foundation’s role in research made at “Pirbright institute” for “developing” and spread of COVID-19 in the entire world. On 7 April 2020, Dr Charles Lieber, Head of Chemistry and Biology Dept: at Harvard University was arrested in Boston for his role in developing the virus and helping Chinese with setting up a laboratory in China for biological warfare. He reportedly received $50,000 per month apart from other grants from multiple agencies for his research work. The truth, up till now remains shrouded in mystery but it will surely come out sooner or later as did “weapons of mass destruction” mantra by Bush and Blair for attacking Iraq, questionable “9/11” attacks and of course reasons for lynching of Gaddafi in Libya. According to London-based “The Economist”, plenty of conspiracy theories exist on China’s internet about COVID-19 being the CIA’s creation to keep China down. NBC News, however, has noted that there have also been debunking efforts of US-related conspiracy theories posted online, with a WeChat search of “Coronavirus is from the U.S.” reportedly to most yield articles explaining why such claims are unreasonable. According to an investigation by “ProPublica”, such conspiracy theories and disinformation have been propagated under the direction of China News Service, the country’s second largest stateowned media outlet controlled by the United Front Work Department. Global Times and Xinhua News Agency have similarly been implicated in propagating disinformation related to COVID-19’s origins. Multiple conspiracy articles in China from the SARS era resurfaced during the outbreak with altered details, claiming that SARS is biological warfare conducted by the US against China. Some of these articles claim that BGI Group from China sold genetic information of the Chinese people to the US, with the US then being able to deploy the virus specifically targeting the genome of Chinese individuals. On January 26, Chinese military news site Xilu published an article detailing how the virus was artificially combined by the US to “precisely target Chinese people”. The article was removed from site in early February. Some articles on popular sites in China have also cast suspicion on US military athletes participating in the Wuhan 2019 Military World Games, which lasted until the end of October 2019, and have suggested that they deployed the virus. They claim the in-attentive attitude and disproportionately below-average results of American athletes in the games indicate they might have been there for other purposes and they might actually be biowarfare operatives. Such posts stated that their place of residence during their stay in Wuhan was also close to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where the first known cluster of cases occurred. In March 2020, this conspiracy theory was endorsed by Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. On 13 March, the US govt summoned Chinese Ambassador, Cui Tiankai to Washington DC over the coronavirus conspiracy theory. A number of allegations have emerged on the link between the virus and Wuhan Institute of Virology, among these is that the virus was an accidental leakage from WIV, a research laboratory in Wuhan. In 2017, US molecular biologist Richard H Ebright, expressed caution when the WIV was expanded to become mainland China’s first bio-safety level 4 (BSL–4) laboratory, noting previous escapes of the SARS virus at other Chinese laboratories. While Ebright refuted several conspiracy theories regarding the WIV (eg bio-weapons research, that the virus was engineered), he told BBC China that this did not represent the possibility that the virus can be “completely ruled out” from entering the population due to a laboratory accident. It has also been claimed that the first person infected may have been a researcher at the institute named Huang Yanling. Rumours circulated on Chinese social media that the researcher had become infected and died, prompting a denial from WIV, saying that she was a graduate and was not a patient. The South China Morning Post reported that one of the WIV’s lead researchers, Shi Zhengli, was the particular focus of personal attacks in Chinese social media alleging that her work on bat-based viruses was the source of the virus; this led Shi to deny that the virus has anything to do with the lab. Ciaxin a media company, run by a Stanford Graduate, in China, reported Shi made further public statements that “The novel 2019 coronavirus is nature punishing human race for adopting uncivilized living habits”. It is very pertinent to mention here the Malthus Theory of population which inter-alia cites natural calamities as one way of reducing population. Who knows this could be one of Nature’s warning to everybody on earth to behave and follow the commands of Allah as He wants us to show that ultimately He is the Master and Saviour. — The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM

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