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China clamping down on research into origins of COVID-19 pandemic


#Nearly a year to the day when the first COVID-19 cases were reported in #China, #Beijing is clamping down on research into the pandemic’s origins, while actively promoting fringe theories that it could have originated outside the country.

The government is distributing grant money to scientists — affiliated with the military — who are researching the virus’ origins in southern #China. #It is also monitoring their findings and mandating that the publication of any data or research be approved by a new task force managed by #China’s cabinet, under direct orders from #President #Xi #Jinping, according to a wide-ranging investigation by the #Associated #Press.

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A worker wearing a mask peeps out behind construction barrier with a notice depicting a bat and advocating for people not to eat wild animals at the airport in #Kunming in southern #China’s #Yunnan province on #Thursday, #Dec. 3, 2020.
(AP)

#Consequently, very little has been made public, and authorities are severely limiting information and impeding cooperation with international scientists.

“#What did they find?” asked #Gregory #Gray, a #Duke #University epidemiologist who oversees a lab in #China studying the transmission of infectious diseases from animals to people. “#Maybe their data were not conclusive, or maybe they suppressed the data for some political reason.”

The AP’s investigation has revealed a pattern of government secrecy and top-down control that has delayed warnings about the pandemic, blocked the sharing of information with the #World #Health #Organization and hampered early testing. #Scientists familiar with #China’s public health system say the same practices apply to sensitive research.

“They only select people they can trust, those that they can control,” said a public health expert who works with the #China CDC. “#Military teams and others are working hard on this, but whether it gets published all depends on the outcome.”

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#Some #Chinese scientists say little has been shared simply because nothing of significance has been discovered. #Even as they controlled research within #China, #Chinese authorities have promoted theories that suggested the virus originated outside the country.

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The government tapped scientist #Bi #Yuhai of the #Chinese #Academy of #Sciences, to spearhead origins research with a $230,000 grant, records show. A paper co-authored by #Bi suggested an outbreak in a #Beijing market in #June could have been caused by packages of contaminated frozen fish from #Europe.

#China’s government-controlled media used the theory to suggest the original outbreak in #Wuhan could have started with seafood imported from abroad — a notion international scientists reject.

The #Chinese government is also limiting and controlling the search for patient zero through the re-testing of old flu samples.

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#Chinese hospitals collect thousands of samples from patients with flu-like symptoms every week and place them in freezers. They could easily be tested again for COVID-19, although politics could then determine whether the results are made public, said #Ray #Yip, the founding director of the U.S. CDC office in #China.

“They’d be crazy not to do it,” #Yip said. “The political leadership will wait for that information to see, does this information make #China look stupid or not? … #If it makes #China look stupid, they won’t.”

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The #Associated #Press contributed to this report.



[ source link ]
https://www.foxnews.com/world/china-clamping-down-on-research-into-origins-of-covid-19-pandemic

##China #clamping #research #origins #COVID19 #pandemic

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