Confusing messages surrounding COVID-19’s transmissibility are laying bare the factional tug of war over how to blame China for the pandemic without implicating the West.
Over the last several days, conflicting reports about COVID-19 have sprung from both official and non-official sources. On Tuesday, Maria Van Kerkhove, Ph.D. of the World Health Organization (WHO) caused a firestorm of reactions from health experts across the globe after declaring in a press briefing that transmission of COVID-19 via asymptomatic individuals is “very rare.”
Less than a day later, Kerkhove was compelled to walk her statements back clarifying that, in essence, no one really knows: “What I didn’t report yesterday”, said Kerkhove, “was that because there’s so many unknowns around this, some modeling groups have tried to estimate the proportion of asymptomatic people that may transmit, and… some estimate around 40% of transmission may be due to asymptomatic [transmission]. And I didn’t include that in my answer yesterday.”
Uncertainty seems to be the guiding principle regarding the mysterious disease almost eight months removed from its discovery in late 2019. The harshest criticisms to the WHO’s comments came mostly from the mainstream press, while the scientific community itself seemed more reserved and, in some cases, concurred. Prof Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nottingham, conceded that the “role asymptomatic transmission plays in the total number of new infections remains unclear but symptomatic people are responsible for most of the new infections of COVID-19.”
After months of lockdown and rising social tensions, the pressure to “reopen” is mounting everywhere. At the same time, warnings that doing so too soon will result in a devastating “second wave” of infections in the fall are keeping anxiety levels high and contradicting narratives by the various health authorities only serves to exacerbate the confusion.
However, the muddled messaging is not limited to questions about the virus’ pathology but also its very origins. A recent faux pas at Forbes may afford us some clues about these conflicting reports and a view of the crack in the political narrative surrounding COVID-19.
On June 7, Forbes published an article titled “Norway Scientist Claims Report Proves Coronavirus Was Lab-Made.” It cited the work done in a British-Norwegian study published in the “Quarterly Review of Biophysics” that mirrored findings made earlier this year by scientists in India in another paper, which was retracted following an outcry from certain sectors of the scientific community.
Birger Sørensen, one of the scientists who conducted the study for the development of a vaccine, stated that the SARS-CoV-2 virus contains properties that have “never been detected in nature” and that the virus’ lack of mutation since its discovery also suggested that it was “already fully adapted to humans.” In addition, Sørensen hinted on Norwegian television that both China and the U.S. could be responsible for the creation of the virus since the two nations have “collaborated for many years on coronavirus research.”
The original article also carried quotes from controversial MI6 head, Sir Richard Dearlove, infamous for his pivotal role in the WMD narrative leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq when he lent his full support to false intelligence reports blaming Saddam Hussein for the development of biological weapons.
Dearlove made a parallel contribution to the COVID-19 narrative in the aforementioned article, pointing to the laboratory in Wuhan, China specifically as the source of the virus, speculating that its release may have been an “accident” and that it raised “the question of whether China will assume responsibility”.
Perhaps the editors at Forbes recognized the elephant in the room and realized that Dearlove’s claims paled in comparison to the explosive allegations made in the peer-reviewed study cited just a few paragraphs before. In less than 24 hours, the article was pulled from the website and even snapshots at the Wayback Machine became instantly inaccessible. The following morning a new version of the article appeared with the vastly different headline: “Controversial Coronavirus Lab Origin Claims Dismissed by Experts.”
Spiking the Narrative
The new piece version on the article rebukes the findings of the British-Norwegian team of scientists and even drags Sir Dearlove through the mud, bringing up his notorious role in drumming up support for the Iraq war. Unnamed “intelligence” experts were quoted as saying that Sørensen’s claims were but “rumor and conspiracy,” while other scientists disputed the evidence presented in the study.
At the heart of these objections is the suggestion that the virus may have had an artificial origin, but not that it originated in China. As the new article points out the “international scientific consensus” states that the coronavirus pandemic originated in Wuhan, but does not include the idea that it was “artificially engineered.”
The clear political goal of the Atlanticist block is to blame China for the outbreak one way or another, but evidence of an artificially-created virus can prove extremely problematic for any such designs. As Sørensen rightly exposed, the U.S. has been working on “gain-of-function” experiments for some time, using certain RNA sequences to boost a virus’ replication abilities. It is these “spike proteins” which are the tell-tale signs of COVID-19’s unnatural origins and a potential smoking gun leading right to the doorstep of NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, who personally lifted the ban on such experiments after an outraged scientific community forced policy-makers to put a halt to them.
Feature photo | Employees work in a research and development lab of Beijing Applied Biological Technologies, a firm that is developing COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test kits in Beijing, May 14, 2020. Mark Schiefelbein | AP
Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.