OPINIONS It is time to follow science, not politics, on COVID-19


It is time to follow science, not politics, on COVID-19

By Tom Fowdy | CGTN

22:13, November 27, 2020

Italian researchers announced in March 2020 there had been a higher than usual number of cases of severe pneumonia and flu reported in Lombardy at the end of 2019. (Photo: AFP)

At a World Health Organization (WHO) press conference on November 24, Dr. Michael Ryan spoke on efforts to trace the origin of the COVID-19 virus. When asked concerning the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, which was linked with a cluster of cases presumed to have started the outbreak in China, he stated whilst it was "likely to have been a point of amplification,"it was "clear that there are cases that preceded that event at the Wuhan market." "The case zero may not be the case zero."

Whilst there is a lot more information needed to draw any kind of serious conclusions concerning the origins of the COVID-19, the hypothesis nevertheless challenges longstanding conventional narratives regarding the virus which have been politicized against China.

The truth is, concerning the scientific origins of the COVID-19, we simply do not know. Those who square "blame"or "responsibility"on China focus on ideological, political and cultural biases that peddle long-standing assumptions about the virus and sustain a narrative which it has been convenient for many to buy into, the mainstream media included. As a result, cognitive dissonance renders it impossible for many to accept any alternative evidence or outcome, even if it is empirical, that challenges these versions of events. The reality is, however, we must follow the science, including when its conclusions make us uncomfortable or challenge our most deeply held assumptions.

The discourse of "Political Responsibility"

We are human beings, as an inevitable feature of our mortal condition we are liable to contracting illnesses and diseases from viruses and pathogens that coexist with us. Whilst technology and science have made great feats to make many of these preventable or curable, what leads humanity to associate or "blame"a natural phenomenon with the fixation of a particular country, culture or territory? Of course, there are different conditions that may infer differing outcomes across the world; nobody is wrong to point that out.

However, this can also cloud one's judgment. If a person, or a group of people, believes naturally and unquestionably that they are "superior"to others, then they may fail to realize or accept the fact that all humans are the same. Viruses and natural phenomena do not recognize or discriminate on national borders. In a globalized society, the world is interconnected more than ever before, increasing all kinds of possibilities. Therefore, the idea that a virus outbreak can solely be weighted on the metric that it is because another country is politically or ideologically inferior is inherently misleading. It is unscientific. These are not variables.

A staff member disinfects a workshop in Jinjiang City of Fujian Province, southeast China, February 20, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

Yet, such a belief is not only convincing, but also convenient. The discourse of "responsibility"is used not only to deflect blame from the complacency of certain countries, but also to buffer and affirm these prevailing assumptions about one's relationship to the world that is the premise of political and ideological superiority. The West heralds itself as a standard of civilization, therefore it is assumed that "disease outbreaks"are "impossible"in such a society and given it cannot be "their fault,"neither should there be accountability for them.

As events in Wuhan unfolded, the prevailing wisdom was, "we are clean," "we are civilized"and "we are transparent"and as a contrast: "China is backwards," "China is dirty"and "China is poorly governed"– therefore, "this can never happen to us." Thus when it did, there was no responsibility; "It was China's fault." Blame is attributed not to the self, but the other. This narrative supersedes science because it focuses on a story which portrays the world in a rigid way, and if "truth"in the scientific sense emerges that contravenes it, they refuse to believe it. For example, if China speaks out on its position, it is derided as "propaganda"or "misinformation"because one side believes its own projections are "truth"as the focus on supremacy must come first.

But the truth is this: nobody in terms of direct verifiable scientific evidence knows exactly how, when or where COVID-19 emerged. Nobody knows who "patient zero"is, and that isn't a political statement but an empirical one. Whilst there is focus on a seafood market cluster in Wuhan and subsequent events, the focus has been political, ideological, orientalist and even racist. We must follow the science and cease the bizarre association of what is a worldwide pandemic, impacting humanity as a whole, with a single viewpoint of supremacy that singles out one country.

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