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COVID-19 origin: a search or a witch hunt?

By Dr John Töns

Scott Morrison’s support for President Biden’s assertion that there is an urgent need to bolster and accelerate efforts to identify the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and further that there is a need to ensure that the World Health Organization is independent and invested with stronger surveillance powers, seems on the face of it more than reasonable.

Surely, we should know what caused this pandemic for then we can prevent future pandemics. Given that the WHO is there to protect the world’s health surely, we need to ensure that it is independent and safe from political interference? Surely any reasonable person can only applaud these efforts and congratulate Scott Morrison on being prepared to leave no stone unturned to find out the true cause of the pandemic? Can anyone seriously question his sincerity? Could anyone seriously suggest that this is little more than an attempt to deflect criticism from his ham-fisted management of the outbreak?

Far be it from me to suggest any such thing. All I can do is what anyone with access to the resources can do and that is to follow the science.

Both in social media and mainstream media it was hard to escape any story dealing with the impact of COVID-19 that did not refer to it as being ‘unprecedented’. It invited the idea that because COVID-19 was unprecedented there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it. Thus ‘unprecedented’ became shorthand for unforeseen. But it could and should have been foreseen. In January 2020 an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine stated: ‘for the third time in as many decades a zoonotic coronavirus has crossed species to infect human populations. By 2012 The Lancet summarized the challenges posed by zoonotic infections as follows:

  1. Nearly two-thirds of human infectious diseases arise from pathogens shared with wild or domestic animals.
  2. Endemic and enzootic zoonoses cause about a billion cases of illness in people and millions of deaths every year, and emerging zoonoses are a rising threat to global health, having caused hundreds of billions of US dollars of economic damage in the past 20 years.
  3. Ecological and evolutionary perspectives can provide valuable insights into pathogen ecology and can inform zoonotic disease-control programmes.
  4. Anthropogenic practices, such as changes in land use and extractive industry actions, animal production systems, and widespread antimicrobial applications affect zoonotic disease transmission.
  5. Risks are not limited to low-income countries; as global trade and travel expands, zoonoses are increasingly posing health concerns for the global medical community.
  6. Ecological, evolutionary, social, economic, and epidemiological mechanisms affecting zoonoses’ persistence and emergence are not well understood; such information could inform evidence-based policies, practices, and targeted zoonotic disease surveillance, and prevention and control efforts.
  7. Multisectoral collaboration, including clinicians, public health scientists, ecologists and disease ecologists, veterinarians, economists, and others is necessary for effective management of the causes and prevention of zoonotic diseases.

These seven challenges demonstrate the interplay between the natural and the human world. Zoonotic diseases are part of the natural world, but their impact can be minimized or avoided. One of the reasons that there is increased frequency in the incidence of pandemics is given under point 4 above – it is the price we pay for development.

Nonetheless, we need to ask: why did COVID-19 hit the world so hard? Afterall, the policies and strategies were in place to cope with a pandemic. However, public health considerations are also political considerations. As early as January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) advised ‘all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread.’ The Australian Government followed some of that advice but largely relied on pulling up the drawbridge. Australia was not prepared to pay the full price to stop the pandemic in its tracks.

The result has been that there is an ongoing tension between the priorities of politics: ensuring that the economy continues to function and the priorities of public health to stop the virus in its tracks. That tension has helped shape the nature of the response to the virus.

So, the first point that we need to make is that had we paid more attention to the science then COVID-19 would not have come as such a rude shock. A Government which follows the science would realise that this will not be the last pandemic with which we will be confronted. Such a government would have embarked on a public building programme that throughout the country there are residential facilities that can readily be repurposed as quarantine centres. Not only can such facilities provide a boost to local economies they also ensure that Australia has the resilience to respond to any pandemic without needing to grind the country to a halt.

It would seem the government ‘follows the science’ when it suits its political narrative. When it comes to purpose-built quarantine centres around the country that does not suit the narrative. Clearly if we can demonstrate that the pandemic was China’s fault then we would not need these centres. This in turn means rejecting the extensive research which dates back to the early fifties that acknowledges that pandemics are the price we pay for over development.

But let’s leave that aside. There is of course the possibility that the disease escaped from a lab in Wuhan. We know Wuhan has carried out research on corona viruses so COVID-19 could have escaped from their lab, and they refused to tell us. It is by no means an implausible account. We can be reasonably certain that if it escaped from a lab in Wuhan, it would have been an accident. For those who suspect evil intent consider this. If the escape was deliberate, then they would have had a vaccine ready; what better way to gain global economic ascendency by controlling a lifesaving vaccine?

But nonetheless the lab scenario should worry us. Governments around the world operate labs that create and study viruses. One could claim that this is a disinterested pursuit of scientific knowledge but somehow, I doubt that funding such research is motivated by lofty altruistic motives.

The laboratories working on various biohazardous research are graded from 1-4 according to their potential risk. Fifty or so laboratories worldwide come into category 4. Category 4 laboratories are highly regulated and often top-secret establishments. One cannot help but infer from that level of secrecy that governments fund that research out of their defence budgets. Wuhan is a category 3 lab – one of some 3000 labs scattered around the world. Security is far laxer, and it is by no means inconceivable that the virus could have escaped from that lab.

But here too. I am not sure if there is any merit in identifying the cause of the COVID-19 outbreak. I can only be guided by two old war horses: Colonel Hamish de Bretton Gordon and General David Petraeus. The Colonel is a British soldier turned academic with considerable expertise in the deployment of biological and chemical weapons. The General like the Colonel was active in the Middle East both saw at first hand the way biological and chemical weapons were used against civilian populations. As countries continue to fund research into these biological weapons, they are placing the world’s population at risk.

The risk they pose is not just from rogue governments. In 1995 domestic terrorists in Japan released Sarin in the metro system. The attack killed 14 people and injured a further 5000. We must not assume that terrorists need to attack a lab to get the biohazards. Some of these can be produced by anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry.

All the information in this article comes from some very basic research that anyone can do. I expect the government has its own nerds who can do that sort of research. Would the conclusion that one draws from this be that we need to be very concerned about the control and transparency of work on biohazards? Would we not want to be more circumspect about the way we are reducing global biodiversity? Instead of wanting to point the finger at China perhaps we should merely look in the mirror and admit that the pandemic is the price we pay for the lifestyle we have bought into.

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11 comments

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  1. Jack Cade

    Why will the USA not sanction an investigation of the part Fort Detrick payed in the development of Covid-19? There is a string of coincidences surrounding the inept US team that went – for the first time – to the World Military Games in Wuhan after training at and around Fort Detrick shortly before heading off to China, the Wuhan spread started a couple of weeks after they left the Middle Kingdom.
    One coincidence is a coincidence: several coincidences is bullshit.

  2. Cando

    Jack, there is Fort Derrrick and then there are the 2 amigos, Prof Shi Zhengli and Dr Ralph Baric.
    Shi Zhengli, the Director of the Wuhan BSL4 Lab & her Coronavirus team who has collaborated for years, was funded in part by Dr. Fauci’s NIAID and the research was a result of a “One Health. One Medicine” Initiative of Gates & Soros.
    https://twtext.com/article/1250572689905004549
    “Dr. Ralph Baric of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a collaborator and gain-of-function advocate, gave attendees advice on how to “make a profit” in the next pandemic.
    https://www.newsx.com/world/dr-ralph-baric-in-storm-over-pandemic-profit-pitch-did-he-abet-ccps-covid-war.html
    Jack, the MSM has no intention to properly inform the public.
    Cowards or crooked, you decide.

  3. Phil Pryor

    Fort Detrick, home to filthy experimentation in ultra deadly biological warfare, shut down, inexplicably, suddenly, only the once, in October 2019, just before all this crappy sussing. Why? Who knows? Is there connection, conspiracy, collaboration? A USA military team then went to China, and, why? Mistakes, Bad Luck? Criminality? In the Trump days, no truth was ever likely to emerge. As the doctor says in his article, we are intruding, interlocking, cornering wild animals in every way, and must suffer consequqences which have been known for decades. In fact, most leadng USA institutions took an interest two years ago and cleared lab infection and escape as a likely source, with some markets, some animals, some practices beng found worthy of more examination and follow up. In any case a dummy like Morrison, loudmouthing for non-medical reasons, is advised here by.., whom? Prof Dwyer has written constantly, recently, and is as expert here as we will find easily. Let us find someone to blame for syphilis, the cold, toothache…

  4. GL

    Jack Cade,

    Without any evidence to back up what you said it all becomes conspiratorial conjecture and anecdotal nonsense.

    Cando,

    What a load of rubbish from “DefeatTheElites” (the twitter account doesn’t exist and clicking on it just takes you straight back to the same TWText.com page).

    The piece on newsx about Baric is not much than a sound bite and the information is 3 years old and of little or no relevance.

  5. Cando

    GL. Then try The Highwire episode #215 15 May 2021: ‘Fauci Denies NIH Funding; Defining a Bioweapon’. 3 days later it all blew up in Fauci’s face.

  6. GL

    Again with that anti-vaccination conspiracy crap from Bigtree?

    Could you mean it stems from that cretin Rand Paul trying to pull a “gotcha” moment on Fauci and Bigtree saw a chance and jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon?

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/05/18/fact-checking-senator-paul-dr-fauci-flap-over-wuhan-lab-funding/

    Here’s one for you about him and his nonsense from last November –

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7648494/

    Until you can provide credible evidence stop pestering me (and possibly others here) with people who deal in pseudoscience, alternative medicine crap, and idiocy like Bigtree and his lunatic ilk.

  7. Jack Cade

    GL

    In early 2019, the USA conducted a ‘Pandemic Exercise’.
    In Mid-2019 several nursing homes around the Fort Detrick lab area reported deaths from ‘unknown pulmonary diseases.’
    In August 2019 the US entered a team of about 300 athletes in its first and only appearance in the World Military Games in Wuhan. The team trained at Fort Detrick, and came close to last, which given Uncle Sam’s fragile ego suggests that their athletic prowess was not absolutely necessary for their selection.
    Two weeks after the team left China, Wuhan got reports of strange viral infectionsIfyou.
    When news began to come out about Covid-19, one website named a US athlete – a 54-year old female cyclist – as the first casualty; The cyclists spouse worked at Fort Detrick.
    If you are one of those people who believes the USA is an agent for world peace – despite over 15% of the entire US workforce being employed in the ‘Defence Industry’ – then by all means keep believing in ‘coincidences.
    I don’t.

  8. GL

    Jack,

    That can be construed as speculation and anecdotal evidence on your part. If you want people to place any credence in what you say then provide some sort of proof to back up what you say.

  9. Jon Chesterson

    To quote back on Alexander Downer on the Drum last night, ‘apart from the bleeding obvious…ho ho ho!’ Morrison doesn’t believe in ecology, evolution and science, hell he doesn’t even believe in morality and ethics. Godliness is a matter of prosperity theology, hell and damnation, tongues not science and humanity. Good will is the hand shake and prayer after the fire.

    ‘Bleeding obvious…’ Of course we all see this one coming. Morrison is on a witch hunt, that’s what you do when you reject the real world of knowledge and science and need someone to blame. It also makes such good sense, historical precedents of burning heretics at the stake and threats to ‘Liberal democracy’, not to be confused with liberal thinking, curiosity, science and reason, or even real democracy – You won’t find it here. And when your own ideology and world is under threat, who better to blame than someone else, a scapegoat, a distraction for the truth, the ‘bleeding obvious’. And of course, in a world where many prosperous countries pursue war and battle agendas, biological weapons for defence and offensive, is not the offence complicit?

    Either way, it seems inevitable, whether man-made or ecological and evolutionary, there is only one reason to pursue this enquiry, to prevent repeating our mistake. To do so this must be collaborative, without prejudice, with honesty and integrity, without blame and sloppy fingers. I don’t believe for one minute that is in Morrison’s scope of practice or capability, belief or self righteous agenda. He may not be in Hawaii right now, but look at him go in Cornwall, sneaking around the G7 like a vagrant pussy searching for worms in limelight.

    Hmmm… ‘witch hunt’, shouldn’t that be Greg Hunt? For christ’s sake go and fight it out amongst yourselves, don’t bother us and don’t take it out on China.

    I wish I could post it on the clouds in the sky – ‘Not fit to govern – Go poke your own eye out Morrison.

  10. New England Cocky

    From Sydney Daily Telegraph, (Paywall) James Morrow, Science turns to ‘lab leak’ theory
    Evidence keeps mounting that Covid-19 virus was the product of man, not nature.
    150621, pp16-17.

    In part: ”In May 2020, a private analysis of mobile phone data from Wuhan showed a sudden and unexplained halt to all activity around a high security section of the Wuhan Institute of Virology for a three week periods in October 2019 – just weeks before reports started to emerge of a strange new illness taking hold in the region – suggesting that there may have been a ”hazardous event” of some sort.

    ‘Despite this, the lab theory was discounted as a disreputable idea. Prestigious medical journals such as the Lancet published open letters stating unequivocally that the virus emerged spontaneously, in nature – though many of the signatories it would turn out, had connections to a group funded by the US government which in turn, was funding its own research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

    Would somebody be so kind as to put up the entire article link behind the paywall.

    This fits with an ill-defined reference in Gary Allen (1971) ”None Dare Call it Conspiracy” that after a predicted succession of events (that happened in the predicted order) that certain undefined players in the world economy may turn to using an epidemic to further their aims. It is further supported by US VP Dick Cheney reported as investing heavily in vaccine producer stocks in the early noughties.

    Before I am damned as a ”Mad Conspiracist” I have been following & for a time documented these events from then reputable Australian news masthead reports and watched the world react to American financial devastation, especially in South & Central America – as predicted by Allen.

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