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Exclusive: Brazilian Researchers on Discovery of COVID-19 Virus in November Sewage

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A Brazilian research team found samples of the new coronavirus in the sewer system of the southern city of Florianopolis back in late November 2019, three months before the first COVID-19 case was officially recorded in the country on February 26.

The researchers from the Applied Virology Lab at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) published their findings in a paper on June 26. CGTN’s correspondent in Brazil, Paulo Cabral, has spoken to two leading researchers on the team for more details about their discovery.

Screenshot of the study on medRxiv.

“We are sure of what we found in the November sample. It is the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We have no doubts about that,” Patricia Stoco, a geneticist at the lab, told CGTN.

“We are now effectively working on sequencing the whole genome of these samples, so we’ll be able to compare the sequencing of the virus found in our samples from late November with that of the virus now actually circulating and infecting people,” she said.

“Doing that we could maybe detect mutations that could possibly explain the increase in the number of cases now,” she added, stressing that comparing the full genetic sequencing is important to deepen understanding about the virus.

Gislaine Fongaro, a virologist at the university, explained how the research was conducted. She said the samples were collected from raw sewage in the pipes en route to the treatment plant.

“These samples were collected monthly between October 2019 and March 2020. So we take the samples to the laboratory and freeze them. That’s why we could go back over them now – they were frozen,” she said.

“Results came back negative for SARS-CoV-2 in the samples from October. And then negative again in the early November samples. But then results came back positive for the first time for a sample from November 27. And then all samples tested came back positive until March 2020,” she explained.

She said it’s possible that if they went further back, they could find more positive results for the novel coronavirus.

“It would be very important if we could review samples dating back to the beginning of the year [of 2019],” she said, adding that she hopes their research will encourage other teams who may have access to older samples to check them, and also encourage researchers to look into other older clinical samples taken from patients, which could also help tell the story of the virus.

“Because if we found this in the sewer, that’s because people were already carrying the virus. That means there were already people who were infected but were not diagnosed because we did not know about the virus back then,” she noted.

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The War in the Shadows: Challenges of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang | Trailer

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Challenges Of Fighting Terrorism In Xinjiang: The Black Hands

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For years, extremists in and out of Xinjiang have turned to the internet to spread their separatist ideologies. Recruitment and propaganda videos, including some that taught how to make weapons such as explosives, were being uploaded online. To counter this threat, Xinjiang’s internet guardians have been actively scanning the internet for suspicious materials and activities.

This is one of many stories in CGTN’s exclusive documentary “The war in the shadows: Challenges of fighting terrorism in Xinjiang.” Watch the full documentary here.

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The War In The Shadows: Challenges Of Fighting Terrorism In Xinjiang

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Xinjiang, in the far western land of China, hosted one of the world’s first and most important trade routes known as the Silk Road, which linked ancient Chinese civilization to the West through the Eurasian continent.

The land of fortune, however, has not always enjoyed tranquility. Thousands of terrorist attacks from 1990 through 2016 killed large numbers of innocent people and hundreds of police officers. Horrific stabbings and bombings wrecked the land, leaving its people in shock, grief and panic. The damage was incalculable while stability in the region quickly deteriorated. Authorities have been trying hard to restore peace to this land.

In CGTN’s first three documentaries on fighting terrorism in Xinjiang, we presented never-before-seen footage documenting the frightening tragedies in Xinjiang and the resilience of its people.

The fourth exposé “The war in the shadows: Challenges of fighting terrorism in Xinjiang” – the last of the tetralogy – exposes the extremist thinking and the challenges facing China’s efforts to tackle terrorism inside and outside Xinjiang.

It gives answers to these questions: Why has violent terrorism continued to plague Xinjiang? For those who were once known as “Two-faced people” among the legal and political elites in Xinjiang, how much damage have they done to anti-terrorism efforts in the region? How come poisonous education materials alleging ethnic victimization and “Turkic heroes” have been used for 13 years in primary and middle schools? Why must we stop the invisible hand of foreign advocacy abetting violent terrorism infiltrating our country?

The documentary reveals the methods used by extremist and separatist forces including the “Two-faced people” among the region’s high-ranking officials, as well as how music and videos advocating violent terrorism and inciting ethnic hatred penetrated the region. Plus, it also tells of the very hardship police officers have been mired in for decades.

Over the past four years, violence has largely been contained, giving way to rapid urbanization and economic growth. Safety and tranquility never come easy. But it’s only a preliminary victory in China’s fight against terrorism.

The documentary is 55 minutes long and consists of four parts: “The network,” “Enemies within,” “The textbooks,” and “The black hands.”

We present you with the first three documentaries — each under an hour — below.

Watch: Fighting terrorism in Xinjiang

Watch: The black hand — ETIM and terrorism in Xinjiang

Watch: Tianshan: Still standing – Memories of fighting terrorism in Xinjiang

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