Exactly one year ago today, Zero Hedge was 'enjoying' our suspension by Twitter after we pointed out that scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been experimenting on bat coronaviruses, and that investigators trying to determine the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak might want to have a word with them.
We later reported that the same scientists had been using 'gain-of-function' research to make bat coronaviruses more transmissible to human beings - for which they were roundly criticized in 2015.
Thus, it seemed only logical that the possibility of a lab escape at 'ground zero' was at least non-zero, and should be investigated alongside the 'natural origin' theory which posits that the virus jumped from bats to an intermediary species, which then infected a cluster of people at a Wuhan wet market. According to a study published in The Lancet, 66% of patients admitted to Wuhan hospitals (27 out of 41) as of January 2nd, 2020 had been exposed to the Huanan seafood market.
Since then, the lab leak hypothesis has gained traction - and has been elevated to let's at least investigate status by legitimate bodies.
Three weeks ago, the US State Department announced that while they haven't determined whether the COVID-19 pandemic "began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China," the US government "has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses."
And in late January, A World Health Organization (WHO) adviser who previously worked under President Clinton and then-Senator Joe Biden said that COVID-19 was most likely an accidental lab leak.
Which brings us to the Washington Post, whose editorial board on Sunday suggested that the lab leak hypothesis was "plausible" and "must be investigated."
Many scientists have speculated that the virus leaped from animals, such as bats, to humans, perhaps with an intermediate stop in another animal. This kind of zoonotic spillover has occurred before, such as in the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014.
But there is another pathway, also plausible, that must be investigated. That is the possibility of a laboratory accident or leak. It could have involved a virus that was improperly disposed of or perhaps infected a laboratory worker who then passed it to others.
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Update (0810ET): After publication, we learn that Chinese Ambassador, Cui Tianki, has called for the WHO to investigate the United States to see whether the pandemic may have originated here.
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The Post then notes that "Published papers show that some of these institutions have been very active in coronavirus research. The most active is the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where Shi Zhengli leads a research team that has extensively studied and experimented on bat coronaviruses that are very similar to the one that ignited the global pandemic."
Also noted is Shi's response to the virus - which was to 'check her laboratory records to see whether there had been any mishandling of experimental materials,' and that the genetic sequence of COVID-19 did not match a similar coronavirus her team had sampled in caves in China, which "really took a load off my mind," she told Scientific American. "I had not slept a wink for days," Shi claimed.
In reality, the cave-culled virus, RaTG13, was reportedly 96.2% identical to SARS-CoV-2, however in September, researchers in India concluded that "the RaTG13 genome had serious issues and all data related to it required a full review."
The Post remains skeptical of Shi's claims.
But that must not be the end of the story. China actively covered up the early stages of the pandemic, concealed the transmissibility of the virus from its own people and the world, and punished Wuhan doctors who expressed worry about it in late December 2019. President Xi Jinping did not warn the public in China or abroad until mid-January.
Since then, Chinese officials and scientists have advanced a host of dubious theories to suggest the origin of the virus was beyond China’s borders: perhaps brought to China by contaminated packaging of frozen food from abroad or from the U.S. military biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., or from mink farms. The disinformation only heightens suspicions that China is trying to distract from or conceal something. -Washington Post
And while we recommend (we know...) reading the rest of the Post's Editorial Board here - where they discuss 'gain of function' research, a mysterious database, and RaTG13, among other things - prepare yourselves for some serious damage control by the World Health Organization (WHO), who was finally allowed into Wuhan in search of evidence supporting the natural origins theory.
The field trip prominently included Peter Daszak - president of EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit group that has received millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer funding to genetically manipulate coronaviruses with scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Of note, Daszak drafted a February, 2020 statement in The Lancet on behalf of 27 prominent public health scientists which condemned "conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin."
So, the not exactly unbiased Daszak and his team are preparing to release 'important clues' found during their investigation, according to Bloomberg. Daszak reports that the main findings will likely be released before Feb. 10, and that the Hunan fresh produce market in central Wuhan was "especially useful" - which was sanitized after its closure last January. That didn't mean there were no clues, apparently.
Investigators looked further and found “important clues” about the market’s role, Daszak said, declining to elaborate.
“Right now, we’re trying to tease everything together,” he said. “We’ve looked at these three strands separately. Now we’re going to bring it together and see what everything tells us.”
While the food market was shuttered and cleaned almost immediately after cases were recognized, “it’s still pretty intact,” Daszak said. “People left in a hurry and they left equipment, they left utensils, they left evidence of what was going on, and that’s what we looked at.” -Bloomberg
Whatever the WHO team comes up with should, at minimum, make for some great reading.