VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Senate hopeful Afuang makes unproven claim that ‘COVID-19 is man-made’

Read this fact check in Filipino

Former Pagsanjan mayor Abner Afuang marked the filing of his certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator on Oct. 1 with an unproven claim ー that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is man-made.

The exact origin of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus which causes COVID-19, is still unknown.

A joint study led by the World Health Organization (WHO) is investigating the likely scenarios of where the COVID-19 virus came from. Watch this video to find out more:

On Aug. 12, the WHO issued a statement on advancing the next series of studies to find the origins of SARS-CoV-2, saying:

“... the search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is not and should not be an exercise in attributing blame, finger-pointing or political point-scoring. It is vitally important to know how the COVID-19 pandemic began, to set an example for establishing the origins of all future animal-human spillover events.”

The agency said, based on the phase 1 report, there was “insufficient scientific evidence to rule out any of the hypotheses.”

The team of experts has drawn attention to the waning of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies needed for sampling and testing, and the fact that Chinese wildlife farms, which supplied live mammals across the country, have also closed, “making any evidence of early coronavirus spillover increasingly difficult to find.”

As of Oct. 5, the recorded deaths in China are at 5,693 and there have been 124,843 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, the Philippines has tallied 2.61 million infections and 38,828 fatalities.

Afuang also made a bid for senator in 2019 under the Labor Party Philippines, but failed to secure a seat. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: What you need to know about the senatorial candidates)

For the 2022 national elections, he filed as an independent candidate.


Sources

Commission on Elections, Filing of Certificates of Candidacy for the 2022 National and Local Elections, Oct. 1, 2021

World Health Organization, Joint WHO-China Study, March 30, 2021

World Health Organization, Origin of SARS-CoV-2, March 26, 2020

World Health Organization, WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the Member State Information Session on Origins, July 16, 2021

Nature, Origins of SARS-CoV-2: window is closing for key scientific studies, Aug. 26, 2021

World Health Organization, Media briefing on COVID-19 with Dr Tedros and Health Minister Jens Spahn, July 15, 2021

World Health Organization, WHO Statement on advancing the next series of studies to find the origins of SARS-CoV-2, Aug. 12, 2021

World Health Organization, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), March 11, 2019

World Health Organization, China: WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard With Vaccination Data

Department of Health, COVID-19 Tracker


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

Have you seen any dubious claims, photos, memes, or online posts that you want us to verify? Send us a message here or here.

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