Experts retract 'Wuhan virus' column - RTHK
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Experts retract 'Wuhan virus' column

2020-03-19 HKT 01:01
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  • Yuen Kwok-yung and David Lung have retracted an article they wrote for Ming Pao, saying they 'regret' any 'misunderstandings' people may have had. Photo: RTHK
    Yuen Kwok-yung and David Lung have retracted an article they wrote for Ming Pao, saying they 'regret' any 'misunderstandings' people may have had. Photo: RTHK
Two prominent University of Hong Kong microbiologists late on Wednesday retracted a column they co-wrote sharply criticising the continuing practice on the mainland of consuming wild game, while defending the use of the term ‘Wuhan virus’ to describe the new coronavirus that originated from the mainland city.

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung and his colleague David Lung told the Ming Pao newspaper – where the original article was published on Wednesday – that they regret any misunderstanding that the piece may have generated.

They told the newspaper that they’re both scientists who seek the objective truth, but have no understanding of politics.

They said the article may have been wrongly worded, or they may have expressed their thoughts in an inappropriate way that deviated from their intentions.

But the experts said the article had nothing to do with politics, and had only wanted to urge people to respect the truth, and convince people to change their old customs and habits.

In the article, the duo had warned that “Sars 3.0” could materialise if the mainland doesn’t change their habit of eating wild animals, saying they seem to have forgotten the bitter lessons of the 2003 outbreak.

“It’s a serious mistake that tough measures were not taken and game meat markets were not closed after the Sars outbreak”, they wrote. “One must face the truth and avoid the same mistake again to fight the pandemic. Don’t blame it on others.”

They also said they saw nothing wrong with ordinary people using ‘Wuhan virus’ to refer to the pathogen, saying the official name of ‘Covid-19’ given by the World Health Organisation is better suited to scientists to use in academic exchanges.

They also called on people to stop spreading rumours that the virus originated in the US, saying this is baseless and a joke.’

In tackling the thorny issue of the origins of the coronavirus, the academics had waded into extremely politically sensitive territory that’s become the latest addition to a long-standing and increasing bitter dispute between China and the United States.

A foreign ministry spokesman recently suggested with no evidence, that the US army might have introduced the virus to Wuhan during the Military World Games in October.

Washington quickly hit back, reprimanding the Chinese ambassador for the unsubstantiated claim, while President Trump has repeatedly called Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” in multiple tweets.

Meanwhile, the mainland’s top expert on infectious diseases, Zhong Nanshan, repeated his assertion that there’s no evidence that the virus had originated in Wuhan even if the first outbreak was reported there.