Quickly, let’s travel back in time!
In 1997, China had just taken control of Hong Kong. It was at this time that the Hong Kong Avian Flu epidemic struck. This infection was only ended when the HK authorities killed all 1.5million birds in the territory, but they suspected that the true origin of the problem lay in China. China resolutely denied this.
On 16 November 2002, there was an outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
It began in China’s Guangdong province, which coincidentally borders Hong Kong. A farmer was likely the first case of infection. China eventually notified the World Health Organisation in February 2003 (!!) reporting 305 cases including 105 health-care workers and five deaths (Later, it was reported that the outbreak in Guangdong had peaked in mid-February 2003. But this appears to have been false, as subsequently 806 cases of infections and 34 cases of deaths were reported.) Even as the virus spread, Chinese officials continued to undercount cases and delay reporting information to the WHO.
Now, in January 2020, we encounter the Coronavirus. The Chinese authorities claim that 56 people so far have died from the virus. (This is most likely an understatement) Chinese Health minister Ma Xiaowei told reporters the ability of the virus to spread appeared to be strengthening. Several Chinese cities have imposed significant travel restrictions. Wuhan in Hubei, the source of the outbreak, is in effective lockdown.
Coincidentally, Wuhan is also the location where China installed the first of a planned five to seven biolabs designed for the purpose of studying the most high-risk pathogens, including the Ebola and the SARS viruses. The coronavirus currently spreading death and chaos in China and potentially across the world, is closely linked to the SARS virus (and the MERS virus which struck in the Middle East in 2012)
Social media has been replete with some very distressing videos allegedly taken from the core infected area and it is clear that the Chinese are now acting with alacrity to try and contain the problem.
The question is why do so many of this potentially lethal infections originate in China? Are they just naturally occurring instances of very bad luck; the consequence of really bad hygiene and eating habits; or might there be a more disturbing angle to all of this. Just what goes on in those Biolabs?
China’s default mode is secrecy and in this context this can fatal. For the world.