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Ambassador says coronavirus imported to China, points to genetic sequence as proof

A gene sequence in the novel coronavirus indicates that the virus was imported to China's Wuhan, instead of emerging there, China's Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui told TASS Friday.

"Five reputable scientific organizations, including the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden and the Central Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have collected data on 93 genome specimens of COVID-19, published in a global database covering 12 countries on four continents," the diplomat specified. "The research revealed that the earliest 'ancestor' of the virus is mv1, which evolved into haplotypes H13 and H38, and they, in turn, led to emergence of the second-generation haplotype -- H3, which evolved into H1."

For clarity, the ambassador used family ties to trace the virus's development. Thus, the mv1 haplotype is "the grand-grandfather," while H13 and H38 are "the grandma and grandpa," H3 -- is "the father" and H1 is "the child."

"The virus that was discovered at Wuhan's seafood market was of the H1 variety," he continued. "Only the H3 haplotype was discovered in Wuhan earlier, but it had nothing to do with the seafood market."

The previous gene sequences, H13 and H38, were never discovered in Wuhan.

"This suggests that the H1 specimen was brought to the seafood market by some infected person, which sparked the epidemic. The gene sequence cannot lie," Zhang Hanhui asserted.

The ambassador castigated attempts to pin the blame for the pandemic on China as libel, and reiterated that the country had to undertake huge efforts and suffer a lot of casualties in order to beat the disease.

"In doing so, China bought time for other nations -- two entire months -- in order to allow them to take prevention and control measures," he concluded.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump doubted that China had divulged all information about the virus's emergence and spread. On Wednesday, Fox News reported, citing its sources, that the virus had allegedly spread from a Wuhan laboratory. Trump promised to look into this version.

Coronavirus source

The initial source of COVID-19's spread has not been identified yet, but it could be a number of regions, Zhang Hanhui stated.

"Numerous facts indicate that the source of COVID-19 has not been identified yet and point towards various regions. The virus is the common enemy of all of mankind, and the search for 'patient zero' is aimed not to nail them to a 'pillar of shame' but to better understand this virus, discover its evolutionary path and then defeat it completely," the diplomat explained. "By relying on contemporary science and technologies, we can trace the source of the virus and be sure that, sooner or later, the day will come when everything that's been concealed will be revealed."

According to the envoy, although the novel coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, there are no facts determining that the source had originated from there.

He provided an example of a married couple from Japan, who contracted the disease in Hawaii between January 28 and February 7, "without visiting China or contacting any Chinese." Notably, the husband had symptoms by February 3.

Zhang Hanhui pointed to media reports that speculate that the virus had appeared in Italy's Lombardy as early as January 1.

"Besides, according to some media, a renowned Italian medical specialist Giuseppe Remuzzi opined that the epidemic in Italy had begun spreading before it started in China," he pointed out.

The diplomat also recalled a comment made by Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who speculated that the large number of flu deaths in the US could have in fact been caused by COVID-19, but the US did not test for it at that time.

"Italy hoped to trace the first infection case by conducting an exhumation, but the US vehemently disagreed," the Chinese envoy emphasized.

US allegations

Beijing furnished the United States with coronavirus data on time, Zhang Hanhui told TASS Friday, commenting on Washington's allegations that Beijing withheld information about the epidemic.

The diplomat recalled that in late December 2019, the Wuhan Center for Disease Prevention and Control (China CDC) discovered the previously unknown pneumonia cases. According to the ambassador, starting January 3, 2020, China "promptly and timely provided the World Health Organization (WHO), the US and nations' relevant agencies with information on the epidemic."

"On January 4, the head of the Chinese CDC contacted the US CDC Director and briefed him on the epidemiologic situation," the envoy said. "On January 8 and 19, the Chinese and American Centers again directly held contacts on the coronavirus issue."

The diplomat added that China shared the virus's entire genome sequence with the WHO and the nations of the world, while the National Health Commission published daily bulletins on the epidemic on its official websites and other media platforms.

Zhang Hanhui underscored that the WHO Director-General Thedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked Beijing for its openness and cooperation.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the fight against the coronavirus in the US was complicated by China's failure to provide Washington with comprehensive information about the disease.

China's international help

Up to now, China has assisted 120 nations and four international organizations in battling the coronavirus by shipping medical masks, protective attire and ventilators, Zhang Hanhui told TASS.

According to the ambassador, the People's Republic has done everything to restore production as soon as the initial coronavirus outbreak was contained, and currently is manufacturing more than a half of world's stockpile of medical equipment.

"[China] has provided 120 countries and four international organizations with general use medical masks, N95 respirators, protective wear, nucleic acid detection chemicals and ventilators," the envoy said. "Besides, [Beijing] also contributed $20 million to the World Health Organization to support international cooperation in battling COVID-19. Ignoring China's contribution and sacrifices goes against moral norms and conscience."

The envoy also noted that no one is safe in the face of the pandemic, and therefore all nations "must unite, instead of pinning the blame on one another."

"Racism and a Cold War mindset are not only useless in the fight against the ongoing epidemic, but can even drag our world into the abyss," he underscored. "[The pandemic] knows no borders. Nations of the world are a community bound by a single destiny."

What is needed most of all is an effective joint prevention strategy to fight the coronavirus, Zhang Hanhui believes.

"We must also work together to iron out economic relations, unblock trade channels, overcome possible financial crises, and prevent a global economic downturn," the envoy emphasized. "Only through the unity and joint efforts of all of humanity will we achieve a comprehensive victory in the global fight against the pandemic."

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, over 2,000,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 147,000 deaths have been reported. In addition, so far, over 553,000 individuals have recovered from the illness across the globe.

[Source: Tass, Moscow, 17Apr20]

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