Conspiracy theories infect us faster than the virus itself, it seems. This time, the basic idea behind all of them is that the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan, home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, is suspicious. From there, some claim that it escaped the lab accidentally after being used in a regular, if risky, experiment, or a bioweapons program. Others suggest it was released intentionally, though it gets convoluted when you try to determine who, exactly, was being attacked.
There are a number of clear explanations for the emergency of a novel coronavirus. But it does not matter how effectively we counter conspiracies claiming evidence that the virus shows signs of being engineered. That’s because the rumors of a lab escape or a bioweapon stem from historical amnesia, a caricatured villain, and good old-fashioned racism.
It’s easier to say “this was an attack by China” than it is to admit that in the more than 15 years since SARS, we haven’t put enough work into global public health as we should have. And in the U.S., we’ve consistently defunded public health programs and failed to implement the labor laws and health care reform that would protect us from an outbreak like this one.
Read the full article by Nicholas G. Evans at Slate