Earlier this week, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) blocked a World Health Organization (WHO) delegation from visiting the city of Wuhan. The WHO team is tasked with investigating the origins of the novel coronavirus that has altered life as we know it. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director, called on Beijing to allow his team into China. “I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members have already begun their journeys, and others were not able to travel at the last minute,” he said, adding that their “mission is a priority for [the] WHO.”
The WHO has been rightly criticized for its cozy ties to the CCP. But the organization’s decision to criticize the Chinese for blocking its investigation is a stark reminder of a troubling fact. We still don’t know how this pandemic began.
There are at least two layers to the COVID-19 origin story. One is scientific. The other is political. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but each has distinctive elements.
Let’s begin with the science and a basic disclaimer: I’m no virologist, so I’m not qualified to inspect or comment on the genome of coronaviruses. The scientific consensus is that the virus that causes COVID-19 wasn’t genetically modified. I’m not a fan of arguing from consensus, because it can introduce logical fallacies. (And, in my experience, the conventional wisdom is often wrong.) But scientists with knowledge of the coronavirus generally agree that it isn’t the work of humans.