Viruses being discovered now are “just the tip of the iceberg,” Shi Zhengli, a virologist renowned for her work on coronavirus in bats, said in an interview on Chinese state television. She called for international research cooperation in the fight against diseases such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Known as China’s “bat woman,” the deputy director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology said research into viruses needs scientists and governments to be transparent and cooperative. It is “very regrettable” when science is politicized, she said.
“If we want to prevent human beings from suffering from the next infectious disease outbreak, we must go in advance to learn of these unknown viruses carried by wild animals in nature and give early warnings,” Shi told TV channel CGTN. “If we don’t study them, there will possibly be another outbreak.”
The Covid-19 coronavirus has infected more than 5.4 million people worldwide and killed more than 345,000. Her interview coincided with the start of the National People’s Congress, an annual meeting of China’s top leadership in Beijing, as the country’s relationship with the U.S. is becoming increasingly frayed.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo both alleged that the coronavirus sweeping the world is most likely linked to the Wuhan laboratory where Shi works. China rejected those accusations.
In a social media post, Shi wrote she would “swear on my life” the pandemic had nothing to do with her lab. Shi said the genetic characteristics of the viruses she’s worked with didn’t match those of the coronavirus spreading in humans.
In another interview with CGTN over the weekend, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Wang Yanyi, said the idea that the virus escaped from the lab was “pure fabrication.”