KUALA LUMPUR - The conspiracy theories on the origin of the novel coronavirus are not based on scientific facts, a Malaysian virologist and infectious disease expert said, commending China's efforts in fighting the epidemic.
In the statement, the scientists also said they stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that the novel coronavirus does not have a natural origin
Lam Sai Kit has joined over a dozen of scientists around the world to issue a statement published this week on the website of medical journal The Lancet, in support of the scientists, public health professionals and medical professionals of China combating the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In the statement, the scientists also said they stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that the novel coronavirus does not have a natural origin.
In an interview with Xinhua on Thursday, Lam said all signs point to a natural origin of the virus. He singled out the claim that the virus had been genetically engineered by a biosafety laboratory in the central Chinese city of Wuhan as being patently false.
"This Wuhan lab has been doing some excellent research work with international organizations outside of China, including American researchers," he said. "There is no genome sequence of COVID-19 to show that it is an engineered virus to be used as a bioweapon."
Lam said it was "a very easy decision" when he was approached about adding his name to the statement. "As scientists and researchers, we must counter fake news. I believe that truth will only prevail if someone stands up for it," he said.
There is no genome sequence of COVID-19 to show that it is an engineered virus to be used as a bioweapon
Lam Sai Kit, Malaysian virologist
Lam, who was central to the discovery of the Nipah virus during the 1998-1999 outbreak in Malaysia, said he had been following the discovery of bat viruses since fruit bats in Malaysia were found to be the reservoir of Nipah 20 years ago.
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Named after the Sungai Nipah village in Malaysia, where it was first discovered, the Nipah virus spreads between people and from other animals to people, causing fever, shortness of breath, brain inflammation and seizures.
Lam explained that many other coronaviruses had been discovered in bats, ioincluding those causing SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), which had showed genetic sequences very similar to the novel coronavirus.
"This provides strong scientific evidence that COVID-19 is most likely derived from bats and that other animals and wildlife act as intermediate hosts, like in the Wuhan market," he said.
Lam commended China for sharing the sequence information of the virus freely with the rest of the world, saying effective measures taken by China have prevented the further spread of this virus to the outside world.
COVID-19 is most likely derived from bats and that other animals and wildlife act as intermediate hosts, like in the Wuhan market
Lam Sai Kit, Malaysian virologist
"We should be grateful to China, instead of some still condemning them," he said.
He also stressed that international cooperation is critical in combating COVID-19 given the unprecedented ease of travel today and the emergence of new diseases, citing the international help Malaysia had received during its struggle with the Nipah virus.
"The lessons we learnt are that the world is facing such new outbreaks because of the presence of such viruses in the animal kingdom, especially wildlife, and we must constantly be in a state of preparedness so that we are not taken by surprise anymore," he said.
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