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COVID-19 virus originated in India, claim Chinese researchers

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Representational picture


New Delhi: Having previously blamed Italy, the US and Europe, without much evidence, for the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese scientists have now claimed that the deadly novel coronavirus originated in India in the summer of 2019.

A team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences claimed that the COVID-19 virus likely originated in India in summer 2019 – jumping from animals to humans via contaminated water – before travelling unnoticed to Wuhan, where it was first detected.

 

In their paper, the Chinese team use phylogenetic analysis to trace the origins of Covid-19. Viruses, like all cells, mutate as they reproduce, meaning tiny changes occur in their DNA each time they replicate themselves, according to a DailyMail report.

However, David Robertson, an expert from Glasgow University, has rejected this claim and called the theory proposed by the Chinese researchers was ‘very flawed’. He concluded that ‘it adds nothing to our understanding of coronavirus’.

This is not the first time that Chinese authorities have pointed the finger of blame elsewhere – suggesting, largely without evidence, that both Italy and the US could be the site of the original infection.

And it comes against a backdrop of increased political tensions between India and China, with troops attacking each-other along a disputed border. Viruses, like all cells, mutate as they reproduce, meaning tiny changes occur in their DNA each time they replicate themselves.

The scientists argue their method of the investigation rules out the virus found in Wuhan as the ‘original’ virus, and instead points to eight other countries: Bangladesh, the USA, Greece, Australia, India, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia or Serbia.

Researchers go on to argue that because India and Bangladesh both recorded samples with low mutations and are geographic neighbours, it is likely that the first transmission occurred there.

Despite the bizarre claims, coronavirus is believed to have first emerged in China in December 2019. To this end, the World Health Organisation’s top emergency expert said on Friday it would be “highly speculative” for the WHO to say the coronavirus did not emerge in China, where it was first identified in a food market in December last year.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said China and the World Health Organization (WHO) are discussing a trip for experts to investigate the origins of COVID-19 and the details of the trip to China will be released in a timely manner.

On Monday, the WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said that they had received reassurances from Beijing that international experts would soon be able to travel to China to help probe the animal origins of COVID-19.

In May, the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the Geneva-based WHO, passed a unanimous resolution to probe the origin of the virus.

China also backed the resolution. Last month, many countries called on the WHO to send the team and share more details about the mission.