China's 'Bat Woman' Warns New COVID 'Variants Will Continue to Emerge'
11:29 GMT 07.08.2021 (Updated: 13:21 GMT 06.08.2022)
Earlier this year, Shi Zhengli flatly denied allegations that the Wuhan Institute of Virology conducted studies with the Chinese military after she was accused by the US of carrying out risky experiments with SARS-like coronaviruses of bat origin.
Shi Zhengli, the deputy director of Сhina's Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), has warned that the world should brace itself to coexist with COVID-19 as the virus will continue to mutate and spread across the globe.
A top Chinese virologist, Shi was dubbed by the Chinese media "Bat Woman" for her consistent work with bat coronaviruses and included in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2020.
"We shouldn't panic, but we need to prepare to coexist with the [corona] virus in the long term", Shi said in an interview with the Chinese media on Wednesday.
© AFP 2022 / JOHANNES EISELEChinese virologist Shi Zhengli is seen inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei province, on February 23, 2017
Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli is seen inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei province, on February 23, 2017
The virologist added that "as the number of infected cases has just become too big, this allowed the novel coronavirus more opportunities to mutate and select", predicting that "new variants will continue to emerge" and calling for more people to get vaccinated.
She spoke after WIV grabbed global headlines once again earlier this week, when CNN reported that US intelligence agencies hacked cloud servers containing data related to coronavirus samples studied at the WIV lab.
The Chinese language data, which is reportedly yet to be deciphered, could be a key to revealing the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CNN.
© AP Photo / Ng Han GuanThe Wuhan Institute of Virology is seen near the Chinese character for "Dream" during a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan, China, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is seen near the Chinese character for "Dream" during a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan, China, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021
© AP Photo / Ng Han Guan
In late May, US President Joe Biden gave his country's intelligence agencies 90 days to obtain and analyse more information on the virus' origins, also vowing to prod China to "participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence".
This was preceded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) releasing the full version of its report on the issue, in which the WHO questioned the scenario of COVID-19 being leaked from from a laboratory. The report also suggested that the virus was most likely transmitted to humans from bats via another animal.
Top Chinese Virologist Denies COVID Cooperation With Chinese Military
As far as Shi is concerned, the virologist previously rejected the US media's allegations that she collaborated with the Chinese military on SARS-like coronavirus-related experiments.
Earlier this year, NBC News referred to Shi's alleged collaboration on coronavirus research with military scientist Ton Yigang in 2018 and with Zhou Yusen, another military scientist who has now been listed as deceased, in 2019.
The news network also cited David Asher, a former State Department adviser as saying he is "confident" that the Chinese military was funding a "secret programme" involving coronaviruses. In January 2020, Asher co-authored a fact sheet on activity inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
5 August 2021, 19:00 GMT
The ex-adviser argued that he had received the information from foreign scientists inside the lab who ostensibly saw some researchers there in military garments. WIV officials have repeatedly insisted that the facility is only used for civilian purposes.
The former Trump administration, on multiple occasions, claimed the disease had originated in a Wuhan lab, with the 45th president referring to COVID-19 as the "China virus". Beijing has repeatedly rejected the allegation, calling on Washington to stop politicising the issue and insisting that the coronavirus may have been leaked from a US Army lab.