Monday marks the anniversary of China confirming its first death from Covid-19, a 61-year-old man who was a regular at the now-notorious Wuhan wet market, writes AFP.
Nearly 2m deaths later, the pandemic is out of control across much of the world, leaving tens of millions ill, a pulverised global economy and recriminations flying between nations.
Yet China, which has broadly controlled the pandemic on its soil, is still frustrating independent attempts to trace the virus’s origins and the central question of how it jumped from animals to humans.
There is little dispute that the virus which brought the world to its knees sparked its first known outbreak in late 2019 at a wet market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where wildlife was sold as food, and the pathogen is believed to have originated in an undetermined bat species.
But the trail ends there, clouded by a mishmash of subsequent clues that suggest its origins may predate Wuhan as well as conspiracy theories – amplified by US president Donald Trump – that it leaked from a Wuhan lab.
Establishing the source is vital for extinguishing future outbreaks early, leading virologists say, providing clues that can guide policy decisions on whether to cull animal populations, quarantine affected persons, or limit wildlife hunting and other human-animal interactions.
“If we can identify why [viruses] keep emerging, we can reduce those underlying drivers,” said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a global NGO focused on infectious disease prevention.
Main Photo: A double exposure picture shows a woman wearing a mask in an attempt to protect herself from a coronavirus contagion, superimposed over a Chinese flag in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China. EPA-EFE/ALEX PLAVEVSKI
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