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Posted: April 5, 2020

Thanks to print media we now know who to blame

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

We now (April 2) have a much better idea of who the real culprit is in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already killed more than 50,000 people world-wide and resulted in 998,000 identified infections and thousands more identified every day.

For most of us on the globe this is the biggest catastrophe of our lifetimes and there’s much more to happen yet. And who must bear the brunt of the blame for this terrible tragedy? There can no longer be any reasonable doubt. The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the People’s Republic of China and don’t you dare accuse me of racism because the evidence is incontrovertible.

It’s thanks to the legacy media that I can make this claim and by legacy I mean The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Manchester Guardian and others including our own Vancouver-based Tyee, which ran incisive, investigative pieces this week exposing China’s unconscionable complicity in this immense calamity.

Let’s begin with the blockbuster Tyee piece “How China’s fails, lies and secrecy ignited a pandemic explosion” by one of Canada’s best investigative journalists Andrew Nikiforuk, who doesn’t pull any punches calling China “a high-tech surveillance state that, despite the experience of SARS, remains allergic to the truth and fearful of transparency.” No kidding!

Nikiforuk goes on to say right out of the gate that China’s authoritarian government did everything it could to lie, obfuscate and cover up China’s true role in the pandemic.

“For nearly a month, Chinese authorities ignored evidence of human-to-human spread of a SARS-like virus in Wuhan city.” Not only did they ignore it, they blocked any attempt by Chinese health officers to get the word out to the Chinese people until Dr. Li Weiland, who first identified the deadly virus, died and the floodgates opened alarming literally millions of Chinese people.

Then China’s communist authorities set out to deceive the world, scrubbing Weiland’s death from the Internet and warning any Chinese citizen posting about him that “acts like this will not be tolerated.”

Chinese health authorities didn’t publicly identify the virus until Jan. 9, two days after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) announced it. Then they did everything in their power to downplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 threat to the world.

“We knew then that the government was lying,” one local doctor told the WSJ. “But we don’t know why they needed to lie. Maybe they thought it could be controlled.” The authorities knew different, of course, but this didn’t stop Beijing from trying to delay international oversight. “The risk of human to human transmission is low,” said a government release. Even the China-friendly World Health Organization got into the act praising China for its “bold measures” to contain the contagion, which they eventually took in Wuhan, the epicentre of the dread disease, but by then it had jumped oceans and spread worldwide.

It was a failure of leadership at the very top, says Nikiforuk similar to the clumsy attempts by US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to contain the contagion. Instead of containing the pandemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “bold” measures changed it into an ocean jumping pathogen that quickly enveloped the world.

And where did this virus, yet to be tamed by a vaccine, originate? Deep in central China where other viruses like it, including Sars-CoV-2 originated. These deadly animal-borne viruses occur in animals like bats, pigs and pangolins (anteaters). Meat from these creatures is considered a delicacy by local citizens throughout Asia where they are sold alive in what’s euphemistically called “wet markets,” according to an article in the Manchester Guardian last week. And the viruses present in these species have also been linked to the poultry industry, the Guardian says. But this isn’t the only possibility.

China, the second biggest exporter of chicken meat in the world, raises most of its chickens in gigantic “chicken factories” where the feathered creatures are packed in cages so close together they can barely sit down and when crowded like this they become more susceptible to diseases of all kinds.

The situation is made worse because some Chinese chicken factories are located in the centre of the country close to the habitat of bats, swine and pangolins. This raises the possibility of “spillover” of viruses between animals and humans, a process called “zoonoses” by scientists. The Guardian adds: “An expanding human population pushing into previously undisturbed ecosystems has contributed to the increasing number of zoonoses in recent decades.” Not a healthy situation.

So, what do we do? Obviously, we should practice self-isolating and social distancing to deal with the current pandemic. But what about the future? Become vegetarians, vegans or be much more careful with our meat consumption? Obviously, the human race has got some serious thinking to do. And I haven’t even talked about the economy.

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who still believes in non-screen, legacy, print journalism.

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