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|Over 6 months into Covid-19 crisis, 5 mysteries that still shroud coronavirus – world news|
China on Wednesday said it will impose visa restrictions on US citizens for what it called egregious behaviour over Tibet soon after Washington announced that it had imposed restrictions on Chinese officials for violating human rights in the frontier province.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian made the announcement at Wednesdays ministry briefing, adding that Beijing would not allow any foreign interference in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
We urge the US to immediately stop interfering in Chinas internal affairs through Tibet-related issues and not to go further and further on the wrong path, so as not to cause further damage to Sino-US relations and exchanges and cooperation between the two countries, Zhao said.
The province, which borders India, is one of the most heavily restricted and censored regions in the world
China already restricts foreigners, and not just from the US, especially diplomats and journalists from visiting TAR, allowing only a restricted number of foreign tourists in the province; invited guests are almost always with handlers.
Citing human rights abuses by the Chinese government in Tibetan areas, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said the US would restrict visas for some Chinese officials under the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act — because Beijing obstructs travel to the region by US diplomats, journalists and tourists. The Trump administrations move announcing its new travel ban targets an unspecified number of Chinese officials with visa restrictions, limiting or entirely eliminating their ability to travel to the United States.
Zhao said that China strongly opposes the relevant US measures.
In response to the wrong actions of the US, China decided to impose visa restrictions on US personnel who behaved badly on Tibet-related issues, he said.
Though China does not allow diplomats and journalists inside TAR without the government inviting and escorting them, Zhao said: Tibet is an open Tibet and has never made any regulations restricting foreigners from entering Tibet.
Zhao defended that by saying that taking into account the special geographical and climatic conditions of Tibet, the Chinese government has taken certain mana
gement and protection measures against foreigners entering Tibet in accordance with law and regulations, which are absolutely necessary and beyond reproach.
Quoting incomplete statistics from 2015 to 2018, Zhao said between the three years TAR had received nearly 176,000 foreigners for official, tourism, business and other activities.
Ties between the US and China are going through some of the worst times with the two countries quarrelling on trade, Taiwan, the South China Sea where Washington has dispatched two of its super aircraft carriers, the origin of the Coronavirus, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
|Merkel looks east as ties fray between Germany and U.S.|
Chinas practical goal now seems to be to ensure that there are enough people in important positions in Brussels and in national capitals who are prepared to compromise European values, such as fundamental freedoms, and accommodate Chinas positions for the sake of maintaining relations with China, said Michito Tsuruoka, an associate professor at Japans Keio University, in a recent analysis.
If Germany is any indication, it wont be difficult. While some prominent German politicians, including to Norbert Röttgen, a conservative who hopes to succeed Merkel as chancellor, oppose her course on China, the countrys business establishment is behind her. In the German electorate at large, China policy has not been an issue.
A bigger headache regarding China for Merkel and Germany is Washington.
While many in Berlin are waiting for November (and praying President Donald Trump will lose), Americas China policy is unlikely to change much. Even many Democrats have begrudgingly endorsed Trumps hard-nosed approach toward China on trade and human rights.
There is also bipartisan unity on the question of allowing Chinas Huawei to install 5G networks. The Trump administration has threatened to limit intelligence sharing with Germany and other allies that allow the Chinese network supplier in. So far, Merkel has stalled, arguing that while there should be higher security standards for companies involved in 5G, firms shouldn’t be shut out outright.
In the meantime, Merkels main priority with China is to get a planned trade deal with Europe back on track. The aim of the proposed investment agreement” is to improve conditions for European companies in China, a potential boon for German business, which has complained for years about anti-competitive practices and intellectual property theft in the country.
The coronavirus forced Merkel to postpone an EU-China summit scheduled during Germanys Council of the EU presidency in September, when she hoped to secure a deal. Yet she has made clear she is keen to reschedule it as soon as possible.
In the meantime, were going to continue the dialogue with China on all fronts, Merkel said last week, citing everything from trade to human rights. Its in Europes utmost interest to work together closely.
|Six months into coronavirus pandemic, scientists say exact source may never be identified|
As the World Health Organisation prepares to send a team into China to investigate the origin of the Covid-19 disease, scientists with experience tracking virus behaviour say the search could take years of work and may not reach a definitive conclusion.
An advance team of WHO experts is expected to meet Chinese health officials this weekend to set parameters for an international mission. But one obstacle is time itself in tracking the virus transmission route more than six months after the outbreak was identified in central China.
Exactly how, where and when the pathogen got into a human is the unsolved mystery.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
The consensus is that Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, likely came from a bat. It may have found its way into another animal, shifting its genetic shape along the way, enabling it to latch onto human cells. Once in a human host it was carried on trains, buses and planes to infect the world as people breathed it in and coughed it out.
While pinpointing the virus exact route into humans may not be possible, scientists can build stronger hypotheses, said David Heymann, a
professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Those hypotheses will serve future research by identifying what you want to look at more closely, said Heymann, who chairs the WHOs Scientific, Technical Advisory Group for Infectious Hazards.
Finding an animal with the virus matching the one in early Covid-19 patients would be the most straightforward way to track the pathogen, but time is also against that strategy.
The virus could be gone, it may not be circulating in that animal it jumped to people and now this is where its spreading, said Wanda Markotter, director of the Centre for Viral Zoonoses at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
Even in bats, viruses may only be present in certain seasons, making them easy to miss in one-off studies, said Markotter, who runs bat surveillance as part of her own research.
An initial theory said the virus made its jump to humans from animals at a wet market in the city of Wuhan, where a number of the first identified patients worked or shopped. That was questioned when officials from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said they did not find the virus in tests of animal samples from the market.
But getting access to those test results could be part of the WHO teams work, according to Markotter. That data needs to go out into the public domain so that people can really understand what it means if it means anything, she said. I suspect its not good data, I dont think anyone is covering anything up.
Tracking back an animal source ideally would involve screening samples routinely taken from market animals sold in the six to 12 months prior to the outbreak, said Gavin Smith, a professor in the emerging infectious diseases programme at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.
The World Organisation for Animal Health in Paris said veterinary researchers in China had been testing animal samples from numerous locations archived from last year, including poultry, cats, dogs and pigs.
Tests in China have turned up similar coronaviruses in trafficked pangolins, but not close enough to be considered the Sars-CoV-2 recent ancestor. Scientists suspected the virus may derive from a horseshoe bat after finding one with a 96 per cent match in China again, not close enough to be considered a direct precursor.
Another challenge is the absence of a patient zero, or the first human infected, who could point to the animal link.
Here, the picture is also unclear. The first patients were identified by Wuhan hospitals in December, but later genetic analysis placed the virus crossover into humans earlier in autumn. The South China Morning Post has reported that Covid-19 cases were found in China in November, based on unpublished government data.
Studies in Europe suggest the virus was present there at the end of last year, or earlier than believed.
Chinese health officials have said research into the origins should be conducted in multiple countries.
Human blood samples that have been stored for months or years could be tested for viral antibodies as another means to track when the virus was circulating and in what areas, a method used in HIV research in Africa.
But it is the future monitoring of viruses in animals and people that may shed more light on the path the virus took.
You probably wont get that from retrospective studies, Heymann said. But you might be able to get that from studies going forward if you have the right study agenda.
Such was the case with the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic in North America. A lack of genetic sampling meant that the closest known relatives to the strain were found in Asia.
It was not until several years later that a group of researchers running tests on viruses circulating in pigs in Mexico found the missing link and evidence of where the virus emerged.
How quickly researchers get to a similarly more refined hypothesis about the origin of Sars-CoV-2 will depend on the amount of effort and resources available and how lucky you get, said Smith from Duke-NUS.
That will mean avoiding a pattern of funds and interest drying up once disease outbreaks come under control, said Markotter. She pointed to the example of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in China in 2002, where a direct link between the suspected intermediary host, civet cats, and the suspected source, bats, was never found.
In the end we didnt understand really well how the virus actually spilled over, we just left it now were again in that situation, but this one is even worse, she said.
We cant allow ourselves to be in this same situation again in five, 10 years we cant afford it.
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