China: Expert discusses Wuhan lab leak theory
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A year-and-a-half since the first cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Wuhan, the origins of the virus are still unknown. Following the first cluster of infections at the Huanan wet market in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, the most likely and established theory was that the coronavirus jumped from humans to animals. This was set out in various places, including the prestigious scientific journal, The Lancet.
A theory that the virus somehow escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where scientists have been studying bat-borne viruses since the SARS-CoV-1 outbreak in 2002, was initially floated by the likes of Donald Trump and others, but later denounced as improbable.
However, a recent report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) based on previously undisclosed US intelligence documents revealed that three researchers from the WIV sought hospital care in November 2019, months before any inkling of the pandemic was released by China.
Now, British agents now believe it is “feasible” that the global pandemic began with a coronavirus leak from WIV.
President Joe Biden has ramped up his country’s efforts of identifying the source of the pandemic, having last week ordered his intelligence agencies to investigate the leak theory, as well as other possible origins.
Vitally, US diplomatic sources told The Sunday Times that if the origin could don’t determined, “this could happen again and we are one wet market or bio lab away from the next spillover”.
British intelligence is believed to be working alongside its US counterparts.
Western intelligence, including Britain, at first considered there was only a “remote” chance COVID-19 had leaked from a laboratory.
Now, however, there has been a reassessment, and a lab escape is thought “feasible”, according to sources.
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The developments will mark a serious uptick in tensions between China and the West.
The WSJ report about the three researchers taken ill came on the eve of a meeting of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) decision-making body, which is believed to be readying to discuss the next phase of an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Earlier this year, a WHO team investigating the virus’ origins was initially denied entry into China.
The health organisation claimed there was a problem with a lack of visa clearances.
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China, however, challenged this, saying details of the visit, including dates, were still being arranged.
The team was allowed in later that month as well as February.
It is worth noting, however, that a number of scientists have dismissed the lab leak theory from the beginning.
Peter Daszak, the British-born president of the EcoHealth Alliance, an American agency that works closely with the virology institute and helps to fund it, has repeatedly labelled the theory as “baloney”.
Mr Daszak was a member of the WHO delegation to Wuhan that concluded a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely”.
Researchers at the WIV experiment with live viruses in animals to decipher how susceptible humans might be to them.
All staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and there are strict protocols to avoid pathogens escaping.
Some people believe a basic human error could have resulted in the coronavirus escaping.
The WIV is just a few miles away from the Huanan wet market where the first cases were detected.
Most people who subscribe to the leak theory think it was an accident, not done on purpose by China as some conspiracy theorists claim.
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