Greeting folks! With many conspiracy theories, fake news articles, and floating Whatsapp messages, we’ve all been exposed to varying (albeit interesting) accounts of the beginning of the infamous coronavirus. From bat soup, to a science laboratory mishap in Wuhan, to it being a 5G technology related disease, and finally, to it being a yahoodi sazish (of course). So for the next couple of minutes, settle in and get ready for the hilarious explanations people came up with and bear with me as I debunk them.
The most famous conspiracy theory is that the virus was bio-engineered by the Chinese government. According to this theory, there is a science laboratory in Wuhan, China — the place where the cases first emerged — and due to intentional spreading (through sales of tested animals) or unintentional spreading (a leak from the facility), it infected the population. Although the Wuhan Institute of Virology does exist, there are still obvious logical gaps in this conspiracy. Firstly, no scientist (regardless of their pay or job status) would sell a lab animal, knowing the possible threat of an epidemic due to its release. Especially when — in the absence of a cure or vaccine — it would put their own and their families’ lives at risk. Secondly, the chances of an ‘accidental leak’ are close to zero because the lab has bio-safety level 4 (BSL4) security (here’s a link to the official CDC training manual, giving details regarding BSL4: https://europepmc.org/article/PMC/6478205 ) which is the highest level of security a bio-research facility can have.
Another famous conspiracy is that the outbreak is an American attempt to bring down China. The theory states that the CIA released this virus to help the US gain an economic advantage over China. Whilst the economic trade war between the US and China is real, the US still heavily relies on Chinese goods and is one of their biggest consumers as well as one of the biggest exporters to China. Moreover, many major US firms (such as Apple inc, General Motors, Tesla) have manufacturing plants in China. An attack on China will result in a decrease in production and, ultimately, the revenue of these valuable companies. Simply put, any major impact on the Chinese economy would directly or indirectly have a negative effect on the US economy; China also has other trading partners that use Chinese goods to finish their products and sell them to the US. Moreover, why would American scientists risk the spread of a disease that they don’t even have a cure for themselves (the US now has the most total number of cases, even surpassing China) knowing that due to increased globalization the pandemic would reach the United States in a matter of days if not hours. Plus, the economic damage (a record 3.3 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits) leaves little to no doubt that the truth value of this conspiracy is as smart as Amanda Seyfried’s character in the Mean Girls movie.
The more outrageous theories include this being an Israeli attempt to take over the world, a result of 5G technology and, of course, that COVID-19 has already been predicted by the entertainment industry. To the first conspiracy believers, Israel is suffering from a 22 percent unemployment rate due to the COVID-19 outbreak: that’s over a million workers, almost 1/9 of their population. Furthermore, they have a total of 5,344 active cases. However, let’s for a moment entertain the wild possibility that Israel was willing to incur this loss for “world domination”, even then, Israeli foreign relations focus on keeping peace with the US and its allies —this would result in the exact opposite. To the second theory, the family of coronaviruses have long existed before the invention of 5G in China henceforth, there is no causal link that explains that a virus, infamous for being found in animals, was somehow a result of this new technology. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals with some of them also known to infect humans. To the people who think Hollywood films are the box for all secrets, I am sorry but that’s false. Granted, that the family of coronaviruses have long been known to exist, this particular strain of the virus is completely new. Fake edited episodes of the Simpsons, movie plots of films such as Contagion and references to a Wuhan disease (Wuhan-400 in a book called “The Eyes of the Darkness”) are nothing more than an exciting plot to make their media more interesting. Yes, Hollywood only portrays gypsies but isn’t actually one itself.
The truth is, a hundred percent certain path of the virus’s origin to its spread doesn’t exist. However, most scientists and researchers agree upon the virus originating from a wet market in the Wuhan province. Out of the first 41 patients, 27 had been there. With this information many people rushed to believe that the virus originated from eating bats. Despite the COVID-19 virus having a genetic makeup similar to the one found in bats, the transmission of the disease wasn’t through bats directly. Instead scientists believe that the virus originated from bats, and highly speculate that it spread to pangolins (an illegal exotic animal found in the Wuhan wet market), in which it evolved to COVID-19, before being transmitted to humans. The important thing to notice here is that the virus, in order to be caught within a species and other species, is dependent on the environment of all the host species. So the conspiracy that all Chinese people have bad dieting habits and that humans contracted the virus by having bat soup is, unsurprisingly, false. Firstly, if the animals were kept in more sanitized market conditions the virus would not spread between species. In the wet markets, cages of animals are stacked on one another so the animals on the bottom receive all liquids (excreta, pus, blood) from the animals above them. Furthermore, no animal is tested for diseases before being sold in the market. Workers don’t even wear gloves whilst handling them — much like our local chicken meat stands. The second part that the conspiracy theory misses out on is that the majority of people in China don’t even consume wildlife animals that are sold in these wet markets. Instead they are mostly consumed by the rich and the powerful (a small minority in China’s overall population). So no, bat soup isn’t necessarily the cause for the spread of this virus and similarly, it is not linked to dietary habits in China.
With all this being said I know there are countless other conspiracy theories being thrown around, and I hope that you will retain the mental capacity to logically debate on your family Whatsapp groups because I’ve already lost brain cells. Moreover, it should also be noted that research into this virus is still premature. A lot of questions are yet to be answered and some of the points I’ve mentioned might get disproven as more findings are brought to light. In the spirit of optimism and hopefulness, may the upcoming summer help us flatten the curve (which by the way is also a disputed claim), make significant progress in the development of a cure or vaccine — and even allow us to give a farewell to our seniors. Until then, that’s all folks!