World is absorbed by a war on misinformation amid pandemic

By Zhong Cheng

Scientists are warning that the world has entered a dangerous new phase of the pandemic, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting in early August new infections globally surging up 80 percent over the previous four weeks, driven by the more transmissible and deadly Delta variant, which has been found in over 130 countries since first detected in India.
The fight against COVID-19 is an important example of the way science can define and shape responses to global challenges. In the process of finding an effective cure and reliable protection, countries have to rely on scientific knowledge to understand how it can be defeated.
Science in service: We are witnessing an era of exponential growth at every level. In the meantime, we are also living in a post-fact world—a time when misinformation, falsehoods and outright lies spread like viruses, with policy decisions driven by ideology and politics in parts of the globe, resulting in a mistrust in science and scientists.
However, it is science, research and evidence, not wishful thinking or ideology, that give us hope as we face the uncertainties of the pandemic.
We are not powerless in this global health crisis. The world is committed to evidence-based action to fight the challenges of COVID-19. Now is the time for scientific knowledge to form the foundation to win the battle and build the base for societies to respond to similar global challenges in the future.
Real leadership demonstrates itself in respecting science and truth, not political manipulation. From openly calling the virus the “Wuhan virus” to withdrawing from WHO last year, the U.S. has, since the very beginning, tried to politicize the pandemic, and stigmatize the virus.
To substantiate its predetermined conclusion of a “China lab leak,” the U.S. has ignored the hard work of scientists, set aside scientific research and used intelligence agencies to presume guilt. Through misleading means and pressure, it intends to force scientists to bow and turn to support the unfounded accusation.
Pamela Bjorkman, professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology, explained that she co-signed an open letter to Science magazine calling for an investigation into the lab leak theory because she thought the letter would promote “more funding for searching for natural viruses in animal reservoirs” and did not anticipate it would be “used to promote the lab origin hypothesis.” In retrospect, she felt she had acted “perhaps naively.”
Seventy countries have written to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to stress that tracing the origins of the virus is a scientific matter and should not be politicized, and the joint WHO-China study report should be upheld. In many countries, condemnation on the U.S. has been expressed by political leaders, media outlets, experts and the general public. In China alone, over 16 million netizens have endorsed the open letter calling on WHO to investigate the U.S. Fort Detrick bio-lab.
About 80 percent of the global netizens who participated in an online survey by the China Global Television Network Think Tank, in the UN official languages of Chinese, English, Russian, French, Spanish and Arabic, believe “the issue of virus tracing on COVID-19 has been politicized.”
The report released on July 26 shows strong global disapproval with the U.S. Participants have voiced their shared opinion in different languages that “the investigation of the origin of the virus does not help to solve the problem of pandemic control. This is nothing but a stupid and unhelpful political move to cover up the U.S.’ attempt to contain China’s rise.”
COVID-19 needs origin tracing, and so does the political virus. The objective and impartial voices of the world’s people are worthy of hearing.
An inclusive world environment is needed in which physicians, scientists and experts are free to communicate factual information without fear of retaliation or retribution. We all have a responsibility to seek out and share information from credible sources, exercise good judgment, and affirm science, evidence and fact in both words and actions.
China holds that origin tracing means respecting science rather than pursuing political objectives.
China has been participating in international origin tracing cooperation with an open attitude. It has twice invited WHO experts to carry out joint research. The experts were given free access and met all the people they wanted to talk with. They drew a scientific conclusion that a laboratory leak is “extremely unlikely.” Their important recommendations also included “searching for possible early cases on a global scale” and “studying the possibility of cold chain transmission of the virus.”
The U.S. Government, on this point, is encouraged to release at the earliest the medical records of those infected in the unexplained respiratory disease outbreaks in Virginia and the large-scale e-cigarette, or vaping, associated lung injury in Wisconsin and Maryland in 2019, and of U.S. military personnel who fell ill during the Military World Games in Wuhan, China, in October 2019, and to allow a thorough international probe into Fort Detrick lab and the 200-plus U.S. biological labs overseas.
In July, the WHO Secretariat notified its member states about a work plan on a second-phase origin study, which has surprised scientists. It is not only inconsistent with the requirements of the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution, but also ignores the conclusions and recommendations of the first-phase joint research report.
–The Daily Mail-Beijing Review News Exchange Item