Wuhan marks its anniversary with triumph and denial

Wuhan marks its anniversary with triumph and denial
# 23 January 2021 09:45 (UTC +04:00)

Wuhan has long since recovered from the world's first outbreak of Covid-19. It is now being remembered not as a disaster but as a victory, and with an insistence that the virus came from somewhere - anywhere - but here, APA reports citing BBC.

From the moment a new, pandemic coronavirus emerged in the same city as a laboratory dedicated to the study of new coronaviruses with pandemic potential, Professor Shi Zhengli has found herself the focus of one of the biggest scientific controversies of our time.

For much of the past year she has met the suggestion that Sars-Cov-2 might have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology with angry denial.

Now though, she has offered her own thoughts on how the initial outbreak may have begun in the city.

In an article in this month's edition of Science Magazine she referred to a number of studies that, she said, suggest the virus existed outside of China before Wuhan's first known case in December 2019.

"Given the finding of SARS-CoV-2 on the surface of imported food packages, contact with contaminated uncooked food could be an important source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission," she wrote.

From one of the world's leading experts on coronaviruses, even the discussion of such a possibility seems unusual.

Could a spiralling outbreak of infection that almost destroyed Wuhan's health system, sparked the world's first Covid lockdown and spawned a global catastrophe really have arrived on imported food without any signs of similarly devastating outbreaks elsewhere?

But with the virus vanquished, the idea that it is a foreign import is repeated with almost unanimity across this city of 11 million people.

"It came here from other countries," one woman manning a hotpot stall in a busy street tells me. "China is a victim."

"Where did it come from?" the next-door fishmonger repeats my question aloud, and then answers: "It came from America."

On 23 January last year, the Chinese authorities severed transport links out of Wuhan and confined the city's population to their homes.

The tough lockdown coincided with the annual spring festival celebrations and came too late to prevent the global spread of the disease - five million people had already left the city ahead of the holiday.