Chinese Virologist Warns Coronavirus Is ‘Just Tip Of The Iceberg’


Shi Zhengli, the deputy director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said in an interview Monday on China Global Television Network that new viruses being discovered, such as Covid-19, are “just the tip of the iceberg,” and that international cooperation is needed to prevent future epidemics.

China Holds Annual Two Sessions Meetings Amidst Global Coronavirus Pandemic

BEIJING, CHINA – MAY 25: Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army stop the photojournalist from … [+] shooting in Tiananmen Square at the end of the Second Plenary Meeting of the National People’s Congress at The Great Hall of People on May 25, 2020 in Beijing, China. China opened its annual parliamentary gathering, known as ‘Two Sessions’ on May 21, after being postponed since March because of the Covid-19 outbreak. (Photo by Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)

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The Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses China’s only level-four biosafety lab, has been studying coronaviruses for years; the Trump administration has suggested that the lab and China played a role in the origin of the novel coronavirus.

Shi, the institute’s deputy director, has long been referred to as China’s “bat woman” for tracking down dozens of SARS-like diseases in bats.

In an interview that aired Monday on the China Global Television Network (CGTN), Shi denied that her lab was involved in the outbreak, claiming that the viruses she’s worked with didn’t match those of the coronavirus spreading in humans, according to Bloomberg.

She stated that the lab would continue studying unidentified pathogens because “the viruses that we have discovered are just the tip of the iceberg,” and added that it is “very regrettable” when science is politicized, and called for international cooperation in the fight against epidemics.

Per Bloomberg, Zhengli’s interview with CGTN coincided with the start of the National People’s Congress, an annual meeting of China’s top leadership in Beijing.

Big Number:

5,462,447: That’s the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, as of Monday afternoon. 

Critical quote: 

“If we want to prevent human beings from suffering from the next infectious-disease outbreak, we must go in advance to learn of these unknown viruses carried by wild animals in nature and give early warnings,” Zhengli told CGTN in an interview that aired Monday. “If we don’t study them, there will possibly be another outbreak.”

Key Background:

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been studying coronaviruses for years. In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, conspiracy theories arose, declaring the lab was responsible for novel coronavirus’ origins. Wang Yanyi, the institute’s director, called such allegations “pure fabrication” in a separate interview CGTN. Both President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have suggested Covid-19 is linked to the Wuhan laboratory. Earlier this month, Pompeo blamed China’s lack of transparency for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. “They knew,” he said in a news conference at the State Department. “China could have spared the world a descent into global economic malaise. They had a choice but instead β€” instead β€” China covered up the outbreak in Wuhan.”

Further Reading:

Wuhan lab virologist: Viruses discovered so far are just tip of the iceberg (The Week)

China’s ‘Bat Woman’ Warns Coronavirus Is Just Tip of the Iceberg (Bloomberg) 

Pompeo accuses China of withholding vital information on coronavirus (Washington Post) 

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