A Chinese virologist has warned that the coronavirus pandemic is “just the tip of the iceberg” in terms of worldwide outbreaks of unknown viruses.
“The unknown viruses that we have discovered are actually just the tip of the iceberg,” Shi said, according to a translation by the outlet of her interview.
“If we want to protect humans from viruses or avoid a second outbreak of new infectious diseases, we must go in advance to learn of these unknown viruses carried by wild animals in nature and then give early warnings.”
She added, “If we don’t study [the viruses], there will possibly be another outbreak.”
Shi used her previous research on the SARS pathogen and coronaviruses to complete the gene sequencing of the new coronavirus strain at the beginning of the year.
“We submitted the whole genome sequence of the virus to the World Health Organization on January 12, 2020,” she told CGTN.
However, Chinese journalist Gao Yu told the Daily Mail that the virologist was “muzzled” by Chinese authorities, causing the delay in warning the WHO.
“We learned later her institute finished gene-sequencing and related tests as early as January 2 but was muzzled,” Gao said.
In an online lecture, Shi also reportedly said her team found that the novel-coronavirus could infect people on Jan. 14, six days before China revealed the information and the WHO echoed Chinese denials.
There is growing scrutiny across the globe about China’s involvement in the coronavirus pandemic.
China has been accused of releasing false statistics and failing to provide accurate information about the outbreak.
Liu Dengfeng of the Chinese National Health Commission’s science and education department told the South China Morning Post that samples of the virus were destroyed at unauthorized labs to “prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens.”
“Based on comprehensive research and expert opinion, we decided to temporarily manage the pathogen causing the pneumonia as Class II — highly pathogenic — and imposed biosafety requirements on sample collection, transport and experimental activities, as well as destroying the samples,” he said.
Liu claimed China’s only motive was to act in accordance with its standard practice for handling dangerous virus samples, saying labs that do not meet safety requirements should not have samples.
The WHO representative for China, Dr. Gauden Galea, told Sky News that although there is a national investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, China has yet to invite the World Health Organization to join.
“WHO is making requests of the health commission and of the authorities,” he said. “The origins of virus are very important, the animal-human interface is extremely important and needs to be studied.”
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