"Let’s go back to the basics of journalism."
Yesterday, I posted on my social media account an article regarding a vaccine being developed by a Chinese pharmaceutical company, Sinovach Biotech. It was not the first time I’ve posted articles like that. Every time I encounter stories on developments of vaccines or medicines for Covid-19, I always make it a point to report it as it gives hope to everyone else. However, yesterday was the first time my post elicited violent reactions from some of my media friends.
One commented she doesn’t trust the Chinese, which I just took lightly. It’s her own prerogative. But what struck me most were the comments of my two other media friends, one accusing China of infecting us and the whole world and then using the situation to make profit. Of course, he was referring to the conspiracy theory which abounds the social media, claiming the novel coronavirus was concocted in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, with the intention of using that for China’s biological warfare.
The other one went to the extent of accusing me of being unpatriotic, even asking that just for this situation, prove my being a Filipino.
But how does one get to be unpatriotic? By not subscribing to the conspiracy theory which they now uphold as their bible?
To be honest, I almost succumbed to the temptation. It cannot be denied that the virus first infect the people in Wuhan. And the particular conspiracy theory had other stories to back it up. That there was a collusion between China and the World Health Organization to hide the truth behind the contagion. That a Japanese Nobel Prize winner had attested the virus is man-made. That China, trying to profit on the situation, delivered substandard medical supplies to other countries. That because of the damage it had caused to lives and the economies of the countries affected, Germany is demanding damages from China. And so on and so forth.
But then, I am a journalist. And it has been our training to verify leads or even stories fed to us. And I’m sure my media friends I have mentioned also underwent the same training.
So, I had to check everything. First, was the virus a product of China’s biological warfare and that it accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Laboratory?
Let’s make it clear. Coronavirus has been around for several decades already. In fact, the Spanish flu which claimed two million lives from 2018 to 2020, is said to be a strain of coronavirus. NCov19 is just the latest strain. Now, WHO avers that all available evidence shows that COVID-19 originated from nature rather than artificial synthesis. But, they may be quick to add, WHO is working in collusion with China.
For the record, WHO is an independent international organization composed of 194 UN Member States and thus, is next to impossible from being manipulated by one country.
In WHO's 21-member Headquarters Leadership Team, only one member is from China and 11 are from the United States, the European Union and Canada. Ren Minghui from China has been WHO's Assistant Director-General for AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Prevention and Control since January 2016.
So, do they think other countries would not protest if it suspects WHO is being partial to China? Even Russia, said to be China’s closest ally won’t allow this as the pandemic has already affected its citizens and its economy.
And no less than Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, in an official White House briefing, rejected a conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was created in and escaped a Chinese lab.
And the claim that COVID-19 was mysteriously contained in Wuhan and did not affect other parts of china also proved to be false. Both Beijing and Shanghai, China’s two most populous cities, have reported confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths since January 2020.
As of April 12, Shanghai, China’s financial hub, has reported 607 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while the Chinese capital of Beijing has reported 589 confirmed cases, according to statistics from China's National Health Commission published by state news agency Xinhua.
AFP also reported that Shanghai confirmed its first COVID-19 death on January 26. Two days later, on January 28, AFP reported the first COVID-19 fatality in Beijing.
And with regards to claims that Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo suggested the virus was man-made, no articles could be found in the internet to substantiate that claim. The only articles that could be attributed to Tasuku Honjo were pronouncements underscoring the need to ramp up the PCR tests to detect virus infections to more than 10,000 per day and calling on residents of the three cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya to impose “complete self-restraint from outings.”
In another interview prior to this, Tasuku Honjo encouraged Japanese authorities to adopt a more proactive approach. But nowhere in these interactions, he made the claims stated in the social media posts which stated that the coronavirus is not natural and that China manufactured it.
On the substandard medical articles being exported by China to other countries. I am not lawyering for China or the companies which produced the medical supplies. But a check on the articles which came out will give us a clearer picture on the issues.
When the Dutch media reported last March that more than 600,000 masks purchased by the Netherlands from China had quality problems and were all recalled by the Ministry of Health, it was found out that the Chinese companies which supplied the medical articles have informed Dutch importers beforehand that the masks are non-medical masks before delivery. The export declaration themselves would prove they were processed under the name of "non-medical masks."
On March 23, a Czech health officer told Czech Radio that the error rate of COVID-19 virus rapid detection kits purchased from China was as high as 80 percent. However, Czech Deputy Minister of Health and Epidemiologist Primla clarified that the actual error rate of the rapid test kit was only between 20 percent and 30 percent, and some medical personnel did not strictly follow the operating procedures to carry out the test, causing previous misunderstanding. This test is only a directional test, and nucleic acid test is required to make a definite diagnosis.
For the donations from China to the Philippines, our Department of Health clarified that the two batches of 2,000 BGI PCR-type test kits and 100,000 Sansure PCR-type test kits donated by the Chinese government have been assessed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to be at par with World Health Organization-provided kits, and those test kits are of high quality and standards and have no accuracy problems, which are being used in Philippine test laboratories and have helped accelerate the testing process.
Now, am I to blame for my refusal to subscribe to their conspiracy theory given all these data to debunk their thesis? Does my refusal to join their ranks make me unpatriotic?
Just because I don’t subscribe to their political biases make me unpatriotic. Maybe I am even more Filipino than them. If only they could go back to the basics of journalism. That is to check and countercheck the authenticity of their stories.