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This week in Tortoise: The mystery of where Covid began

This week in Tortoise: The mystery of where Covid began

This really is the morning after the night before. The morning after England’s men’s football team were defeated by Italy, on penalties, in the final of the Euros. No doubt there’ll be plenty of sore heads and hoarse voices among Tortoise’s membership today. And perhaps just one or two of you wondering how everyone else can get so worked up about a game.

Whichever side you’re on – the dejected or triumphant, the hungover or indifferent – I’d suggest you make some time for this week’s episode of the Slow Newscast. Its title is Genesis: The mystery of where Covid began because those beginnings, which are so important to understand, really are a mystery. Did the pandemic emerge from a cave full of bats? Did it cross over to people in a wet market? Or should we believe the lab leak theory, which appears to have more and more serious supporters?

Ceri Thomas, with contributions from Poppy Sebag-Montefiore and various scientists in and around the WHO investigation last year, set off to answer these questions. And he started by focusing on a separate one: why did Huang Yanling disappear? Huang Yanling was the woman alleged to have been patient zero and to  have had her connections with the Wuhan Institute of Virology erased. She has come to exemplify how the search for Covid’s origin is as much a political exercise as a scientific one. 

As well as looking back at Covid’s genesis, we are, of course, also looking forward to its end – which will only happen with a comprehensive vaccination programme around the world. Last week, we launched The Arms Race, our campaign to help build a coalition to deliver that programme and billions more jabs by the end of next year. The response so far has been heartening, though we have no illusions about how many hard miles are left to be run. If you’d like to hear about what we’re planning next, then please listen to my latest Editor’s Voicemail from over the weekend.   

As for this week’s ThinkIns:

And, of course, there’s our usual Open News meeting on Tuesday lunchtime, and the latest Sensemaker Live on Friday. 


James Harding
Editor & co-founder