Origin of COVID-19

Context: WHO must work alongside China in quickly uncovering the origins of the virus.

Uncovering the origin of corona virus is shrouded in mystery due to various factors. Discuss.

  • Origin of the virus: In the case of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), its source is still unknown even 11 months after WHO reported the first case.
  • Knowing the natural reservoirs, intermediate hosts and the events that allowed the virus to jump across the species barrier are important in prevention.
  • Soon after the virus spread around the world, there was heightened demand to identify its origin in China’s Wuhan where the first case cluster was reported.
  • Efforts to find the origin: It was only in early August that WHO completed the mission to lay the groundwork for joint efforts to identify the origin.
  • It was only in late October that China began early studies for the two-phase investigation.
  • Politicizing the issue: If China failed to alert WHO immediately after a Wuhan cluster was reported, its reluctance to quickly and earnestly investigate the source can partly be explained by U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to politicise the issue.
  • Economic cost: The reluctance has only increased after mounting international anger over its reporting the outbreak and the huge economic cost of the pandemic globally.
  • Susceptibility: One way to find this out is to know the susceptibility of different animal species.
    • There is strong evidence that the virus originated in bats and probably spread to humans through an intermediate species.
    • Already, many animals including cats have been found susceptible to the virus in the lab and outside.
    • With the virus spread so wide, zeroing in on the intermediate host becomes more difficult as the possibility of humans having spread the virus to animals cannot be ruled out.

Way forward

  • A multi-pronged approach with an emphasis on investigating China’s wildlife farms becomes crucial. This highlights the importance of working alongside China to uncover the virus’s origin.
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