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Scientists In Wuhan Predicted The Looming Outbreak Of A New Coronavirus Epidemic As Early As 2017 And The Chinese Government Did Nothing About It

Despite an early warning from a group of scientists in the Wuhan Institute of Virology about the potential emergence of a new coronavirus from China two years before the first COVID-19 case was identified, the Chinese government failed to prevent and contain the spread of the virus.

The potential danger was uncovered during a 2017 study of the 2002 SARS epidemic, which marked the first outbreak ever recorded in human history caused by a coronavirus.

While this previous epidemic did result in around 800 deaths worldwide, it remained largely contained in Asia where it had first emerged and has been completely eradicated since late 2004 thanks to the efforts undertaken by the affected countries to limit its spread.

While the exact birthplace of SARS-CoV-1 –the coronavirus responsible for the short-lived 2002 SARS outbreak– had not yet been determined, research conducted in 2003 attributed its origins to wild animals such as masked palm civets sold at the time in Guangdong Province’s wet markets.

Initially, the Chinese government made the right decision and banned the sale of wildlife within these traditional markets in 2003, but it reversed its course later on and allowed such practices to take place once again.

It took 13 years after the epidemic had ended, but definitive evidence linking the original SARS outbreak to wildlife was eventually obtained in late December 2017.

In Wuhan of all places, a group of Chinese scientists that included virologist Shi Zhengli identified the same genetic composition of the virus that had caused the SARS outbreak 15 years before in several horseshoe bats residing in a cave located in the province of Yunnan, Southwest China.

Having spent five years observing the bats and collecting samples for analysis, the scientific team came to the conclusion that “the risk of spillover into people and emergence of a disease similar to SARS is possible,” adding that “another deadly outbreak of SARS could emerge at any time.” 

These crucial findings were compiled and published on November 30, 2017, in a scientific paper entitled “Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus.”

The new discovery earned the recognition of the scientific community worldwide and was featured in an article by the British scientific journal Nature on December 1, 2017, as well as other media outlets that helped amplify its cautionary message.

This early warning gave the Chinese government plenty of time to reinstate the 2003 ban on the sale of wild animals in the country’s traditional markets, but its failure to do so proved to be a fatal mistake that led to the emergence of COVID-19 from a wet market in Wuhan. 

It is not hard to imagine that millions of lives could have been saved and the disastrous damage done to all countries worldwide could have been avoided if China had simply heeded the warnings of its own scientists and taken action to prevent the pandemic before it was too late.

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