As we approach the end of the second year of the Covid 19 pandemic, wave after wave of the virus continues to invade the world. Our best scientists struggle to keep track of the perpetual mutations of a minuscule, invisible enemy without a brain, riding on the roller coaster of natural evolution.
At the latest count, every country in the world has been affected by the virus except for twenty-two small island states. About two hundred million cases have been reported, resulting in over four million deaths. Only 13% of the world population has been fully vaccinated and only 1.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
No one is spared by the virus, irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It makes no distinction on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs. The populations of all political regimes are treated alike, whether they be capitalist, Marxist, socialist, liberal, autocratic, totalitarian, democratic, theocratic, or secular.
The war the virus is engaged in is not against any particular individuals, communities or populations. It is against the whole of humanity. Human beings are an ideal target for the coronavirus pathogen. The virus possesses a key that allows it to break into human cells. No other animal or life form is such an easy target, though many of them are also at risk.
It is amazing how quickly the pandemic has spread around the world and modified our way of life, our work habits, means of communication, international trade and travel, in some cases even the location of our principal residence, our consumption, the strategic location of the production of essential products, our political and economic outlook, international relations and cooperation, etc.
Though international cooperation between nations has been far from perfect, I think it is true to say that there have been no major obstacles, quite the contrary, even mainland China, the host country of the pandemic, has cooperated – though somewhat belatedly – and continues to cooperate with the rest of the world to combat and contain the Coronavirus.
A major point of dissension relates to the question of how the virus originated. It is not a problem for the health experts alone to resolve. It is not just a technical matter. Important moral and political issues must first be addressed before a meaningful technical investigation can be carried out with the full and unequivocal cooperation of the host country.
Nations or sovereign states are legal entities. Like individuals, they have a moral obligation to respect human life and well-being, not just as regards their own citizens, but as regards all human beings in the concert of nations. Human morality requires that sovereign nations conduct themselves collectively as individual human beings and submit themselves to the same moral codes. Nations have a moral obligation to humanity in general and that obligation entails a heavy responsibility.
The question of how the Coronavirus originated is a particularly delicate one. It is potentially incriminating for the host country if it is found that by its acts or negligence it triggered the pandemic or contributed in some way to its rapid propagation beyond control.
Given the gravity of the question and its moral and political consequences, it is eminently comprehensible that no sovereign state, whether capitalist, Marxist, socialist, liberal, autocratic, totalitarian, democratic, theocratic, secular, or otherwise, would view favourably the prospect of committing itself to full, unrestricted cooperation with an international team of investigators on its soil.
For there to be any chance of its acceptance, the objective of the investigation would need to be clearly defined. It should also be clearly established as a "sine qua non" condition prior to the investigation that any facts or evidence provided by the host country would not be used against it (cf., the fifth amendment of the US constitution). A "hold harmless" (judicial immunity) provision in favour of the host country should be included in the agreement to conduct the investigation. Any judicial consequences of the investigation should be left to the sole discretion of the host country in accordance with its laws and regulations.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) investigation into the origin of Covid 19 which was effected jointly with China in 2020 was considered inadequate by eighteen prominent biologists in an open letter published in the journal "Scientist" in May 2021. According to the biologists, the disappointing results of the investigation were not due to a lack of competence of the investigators. They considered they were inevitable for the following reasons :