‘Vital clues’: New probe into Covid origins

China will test hundreds of thousands of blood samples from Wuhan as part of a new investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

China is set to undertake a blood testing blitz in a new effort to uncover the origins of the lethal Covid-19 pandemic.

According to CNN, a Chinese official has confirmed Beijing’s plans to test up to tens of thousands of blood donation samples taken from Wuhan, where the virus originated in 2019.

It comes after a team of World Health Organisation (WHO) investigators in February claimed the stockpile of samples could be crucial when it comes to discovering how, and exactly when, the virus emerged.

The samples have been stored in the Wuhan Blood Centre for the past two years for legal reasons, but that waiting period is due to expire for samples collected in October and November 2019 in the coming weeks, which experts believe is when the virus first began spreading.

There are also hopes the samples could reveal the first examples of antibodies made by humans against Covid-19.

“This provides the closest in the world we’ve seen of real time samples to help us understand the timing of the outbreak event,” Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNN.

Meanwhile, Maureen Miller, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, told the organisation the samples “absolutely will contain vital clues”, but said China must allow foreign experts to be involved in the testing process for credibility and transparency purposes.

The potential breakthrough comes after US President Joe Biden ordered a 90-day review of the virus’ origins on May 26 this year.

The purpose of that investigation was to uncover whether the notion the virus escaped via a lab leak – which was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory – had any credibility, or whether the virus occurred naturally.

The US review was ultimately inconclusive, with investigators unable to rule out either scenario.

However, after receiving a classified version of the report, President Biden pointed out the lack of transparency from China over the course of the pandemic.

“Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China, yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it,” he said.

There have also been serious questions raised regarding China’s timeline, with the head of the Chinese team working on the WHO investigation, Liang Wannian, saying earlier this year that while the first official case in Wuhan was recorded on December 8, 2019, “our research and the previous related research papers of Chinese scientists fully suggest … December 8 is probably not the primary case. There might be other cases that occurred before.”

In an explosive new book by Sky’s Sharri Markson, What Really Happened In Wuhan, that timeline is questioned further, with a Wuhan doctor revealing high school classes in the city were mysteriously being shut down in early November – something which would never happen over a mere flu outbreak.

By December, comments about the new illness in Wuhan were being scrubbed from social media, with healthcare workers also forbidden from speaking out and facing harsh punishments if they shared information about the illness.

And on January 1, 2020, crucial early samples taken from ill Wuhan residents were destroyed “under the strict orders of the Chinese Government as it sought to cover up news of the emerging virus”.

In recent months, there have been growing calls across the globe for a deeper investigation into the virus, how it emerged and the potential role China played in covering up the spread, in order to prevent future tragedies.

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