Official rejects reported claims by a Danish expert that Covid-19 may have originated in Thailand
A report in the respected Danish newspaper Politiken claimed that WHO expert, Dr Thea Kølsen Fischer, is studying closely the links between the virus, which has killed millions and devastated the world economy, and the genetic profile of Thai horseshoe bats. The new theory is being pursued by the investigative panel formed by the World Health Organisation that is trying to identify the source of the disease which first made its presence felt at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China.
A Danish epidemiologist, one of several experts that visited the Chinese city of Wuhan in January searching for the origins of the Covid-19 virus, has been reported as raising concerns about Bangkok’s Chatuchak wildlife market as a possible source. The suggestion was firmly denied on Wednesday by the Department of Disease Control.
Thailand’s Department of Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health was forced to deny speculation on Wednesday that the kingdom and in particular its popular Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, may be the worldwide source of the Covid-19 virus.
The report can be traced back to one of the World Health Organisation investigation panellists who visited Wuhan last month.
The panel was trying to track down the first people reported as suffering from the disease in Wuhan at the end of 2019 but failed to even obtain full case files from authorities in the communist country as well as analysis of the virus at its earliest reported stage.
The world health body, based in Geneva, has made it clear that the failure to provide this information by China is hampering its investigation.
WHO panel members exploring sources for the virus outside China, are targeting Thailand
It is reported members of the panel are exploring alternative sources for the virus external to China, despite not obtaining the full range of data formally requested or being allowed full and unrestricted access to key locations while in the city at the epicentre of the outbreak.
It appears at least one member of the fact-finding panel is positively entertaining the theory that the virus originated somewhere else in Southeast Asia and in particular, Thailand.
Danish epidemiologist on the investigating panel raised concern about the Chatuchak wildlife market
This is a theory being suggested by Dr Thea Kølsen Fischer who has been at the forefront of efforts to track down the source of the infection.
This was confirmed in a news report, this week, published in the long-established Danish daily newspaper Politiken. The story appeared to suggest that Dr Fischer, who is an epidemiologist, had positively and specifically identified the market in Chatuchak as the source of the virus.
Expert denied reports in the Danish newspaper
However, the expert has since denied that this is what she said and clarified that her comments were concerned with the similar nature of a SARS virus found in Thai horseshoe bats as well as the wider theory that the virus may have originated in Southeast Asia.
Thai official at the Department of Disease Control briefs the media on the basis for the claims but rejected them categorically
This point was acknowledged in Bangkok on Wednesday by Dr Chawetsan Namwat, of the Department of Disease Control who revealed the genetic code in Thai horseshoe bats was shared with 91.5% of the Covid-19 virus.
The Thai official was at pains, however, to point out that the news reports were based on an academic assumption and that the virus found in local horseshoe bats was not transmissible to human beings.
Nevertheless, he emphasised also the undesirability of humans consuming wild species including horseshoe bats.
‘The Department of Disease Control has looked into the issue, and we can say that it’s not true,’ Dr Chawetsan told the media. ‘There is no academic proof that it came from any animal at the market.’
New narrative, looked at by WHO officials, being pushed by China on propaganda networks
The emergence of the narrative that the Covid-19 virus may have originated outside China and especially the city of Wuhan is being actively promoted on Chinese media including a number of powerful propaganda networks reaching out to international audiences.
At the same time, the World Health Organisation panel that visited China and Wuhan in January appears to be taking the proposition seriously due to the similarity of the SARS type virus found in Thai bats.
It is also clear that the Danish expert, Dr Fischer, has specifically identified the famous Chatuchak wildlife market as a potential source saying it was a place that filled her with trepidation.
Concerted reports emerging that pinpoint Thai bats as the Covid-19 source stoutly refuted by Thai officials citing no evidence of human transmission
The reports linking Thailand to the Covid-19 virus are also being disseminated by the Russian news agency Sputnik.
It went further and suggested a new strain of the virus that exactly matches the Covid-19 disease has emerged and been identified in the horseshoe bats.
This comes from a new study published in a journal called Nature Communications. It reported that the new variant known as ‘RacCS203’ was detected in five bats within a Thai wildlife facility in the eastern provinces.
At Wednesday’s press conference, the Director-general of the Department of Disease Control, Thanya Netithammakul, again pointed out that the virus found in Thai horseshoe bats has never been shown to be transmissible to human beings.
He said this has been validated by studies conducted by both Kasetsart University and Chulalongkorn University.
He also made it clear that tests conducted on animals at the wildlife market in Chatuchak, ordered by the government in March 2020, found no cause for concern.
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.