China Cracks Down On Research To Find Origin of COVID-19, Report Says

The mountain valleys of southern China may hold answers into the origins of the coronavirus that has claimed the lives of 1.7 million people worldwide. Researchers, however, are having difficulty accessing the cave due to restrictions imposed by Chinese officials. 

An investigation by The Associated Press reports that while the Chinese government is giving hundreds of thousands of grants to scientists to research the origins of the coronavirus, they are monitoring data and requiring publications go through an approval process. Leaked documents indicate the measures come from the highest levels of the nation’s leadership. 

According to documents obtained by the AP, scientists haven’t been able to conduct their work, and journalists have been shut out after the country’s government began controlling research and operating in secrecy. 

A report by ABC News indicates that a team of bat scientists who were able to collect samples from the caves where the bats that had the closest relative of the COVID-19 virus had their sample collection confiscated. A team of journalists were reportedly denied access to roads and research sites in late November. 

Because of these restrictions, little information from the scientists’ studies has been made public. 

“What did they find?” Gregory Gray, a Duke University epidemiologist who runs a lab in China that studies infectious disease transmission between humans and animals asked. “Maybe their data were not conclusive, or maybe they suppressed the data for some political reason. I don’t know… I wish I did,” he told ABC News

Health experts from around the world are concerned that the restrictions will disrupt global collaborations that may help put an end to the pandemic. Some theorize that China leadership is worried that discoveries of the origins of the virus may implicate negligence on the part of top officials. 

Regardless, some, like founding executive director of the UC Davis One Health Institute Jonna Mazet, think that researchers should be able to work for the sake of getting the information. “There’s so much speculation around the origins of this virus,” Mazet said. “We need to step back…and let scientists get the real answer without the finger-pointing.” 

Vaccine distribution plans have launched in several countries, as the fight against the coronavirus and its devastating impact continues. 

Photo: Getty Images

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