As governments struggle to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, regular life has come to a grinding halt in several nations across the globe.
COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire and is considered the biggest public health crisis since the H1N1 epidemic in 2009.
There are a number of theories surrounding the origins of the virus that has caused the pandemic. These theories lend themselves to interesting speculation, but there is so far no proof to support any of them.
Here are some theories behind its origins:
Coronavirus is a bioweapon
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Although there are several versions of this theory, most allege the virus had been released from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). It is a fact that Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province, was initially the epicentre of the outbreak, but there is no evidence to prove the claims that WIV was involved.
This theory though is so strong that a $20 trillion lawsuit has been filed in the US against China. The plaintiffs have sought an amount bigger than China's GDP, claiming coronavirus is the result of a biological weapon prepared by the Chinese authorities.
Social media users have also been quick to add fuel to the fire.
However, some clinical scientists disagree on the theory.
"This is a virus that has evolved over time as RNA viruses do, and its link to viruses that are found in animals is evident, but the link to being an engineered virus is not," Gagandeep Kang, a clinical scientist, told Scroll.in.
One version of this theory claims Chinese spies stole this virus from a lab in Canada and turned it into a biological weapon.
COVID-19 was transmitted from bats in a Wuhan market
China banned the consumption of wild animals after the outbreak began as reports suggested COVID-19 originated from bats sold in Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. But there is no concrete evidence to support the claim that bats transferred the virus to humans in Wuhan.
"The virus which causes COVID-19 most probably has its ecological reservoir in bats, and transmission of the virus to humans has likely occurred through an intermediate animal host – a domestic animal, a wild animal or a domesticated wild animal which has not yet been identified," the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
Scientists have found strains of the coronavirus in pangolins smuggled from Malaysia to China, but it is unknown how the virus transmitted from the pangolins to the bats.
"Bats are certainly involved, pangolins maybe, but it is very possible that other animal species are involved as well," Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney told BBC.
5G played a role
American singer Keri Hilson linked the COVID-19 outbreak with China's rollout of 5G network in November 2019.
Hilson, who has 4.2 million followers on Twitter posted several tweets where she said: "People have been trying to warn us about 5G for YEARS. Petitions, organizations, studies...what we're going thru is the affects [sic] of radiation. 5G launched in CHINA. Nov 1, 2019. People dropped dead."
Many eerie theories on similar lines followed, alleging COVID-19 was indeed planned to depopulate the world.
There is so far no research that proves a link between 5G airwaves and the novel coronavirus. In fact, a report by CNET debunked this theory.
"This story about 5G has no credence scientifically and is certainly a potential distraction, as is other such misinformation, from controlling the COVID-19 epidemic," said Jonathan Samet, a professor at the Colorado School of Public Health, told CNET.
The US military brought the virus to ChinaThis theory was first promoted by China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation! pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3
— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
Some athletes from the US military had participated in the Military World Games held in Wuhan in October 2019.
State-run newspaper Global Times wrote a piece questioning a US cyclist who attended the event. The report cited George Webbs, a known conspiracy theorist, who claimed the cyclist could be Patient Zero of COVID-19."No illnesses have been tied to American service members from October," the Pentagon said, according to the New York Times.