Staff of a catering company distribute meals for medical workers at a hospital in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei province, Feb 16, 2020. (LIANG ZIDONG / XINHUA)
The Lancet, one of the world's top medical journals, published a letter of support on Wednesday for scientists and public health and medical professionals in China fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak and to condemn conspiracy theories surrounding the effort.
The letter was launched by 27 public health scientists from eight countries. A petition to spread awareness of the letter began on Change.org on Wednesday and it reached its goal of 500 signatories on the same day.
The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumors and misinformation around its origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.
A letter by 27 public health scientists from eight countries
Chinese scientists and medical professionals have "worked diligently and effectively to rapidly identify the pathogen behind this outbreak, put in place significant measures to reduce its impact, and share their results transparently with the global health community," the letter reads. "This effort has been remarkable."
"The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumors and misinformation around its origins," the letter reads. "We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin."
According to the letter, scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of the novel coronavirus and they "overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife".
"Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus," the letter reads. "We support the call from the director-general of the WHO to promote scientific evidence and unity over misinformation and conjecture. We want you, the science and health professionals of China, to know that we stand with you in your fight against this virus."
Rumors, misinformation and conspiracy theories have caused some Chinese scientists to receive threats of violence against their family and themselves, according to the statement accompanying the petition.
Pauline Skarrott, a petition signatory, wrote in the comment that the letter sends support to all the frontline staff working in China who are dealing with frightened patients infected with the virus.
"This puts them at great personal risk. They have my respect and gratitude," the comment reads.
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