Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, China and its rivals have been locked in a battle over the origins of the virus, with the US in particular pushing a theory that it was a weapon engineered in a Wuhan lab. At first, transmission from hunted game seemed likely, but Beijing has also said the cold chain could have brought the virus from elsewhere.
The long-anticipated report from a World Health Organization (WHO) mission to China’s Wuhan has found that it’s “extremely unlikely” that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, escaped from a research lab. However, it also failed to firmly point the finger at animal-to-human transmission as well, which until now was the prevailing thesis.
The report delivers few definite answers, except to say that “more timely and comprehensive data” is needed in the future. It advised further research into every area of inquiry, but noted the theory that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the Wuhan Virology Lab has the least credibility. The scientists also suggested a new research area might be the 7th Military World Games, a huge military sports event Wuhan hosted in October 2019, two months before the first cases of the virus were detected.
The 12-nation team, which included Chinese scientists, also looked at direct zoonotic transmission to humans (possible-to-likely), introduction through an intermediate host followed by spillover (likely to very likely), and introduction through the cold food chain (possible). As Sputnik has previously reported, the lattermost field, which was raised by the Chinese government after it was proven that SARS-CoV-2 can survive in a deep freeze for significant amounts of time, was widely lambasted in the Western media, which instead pushed the lab escape theory, which has never had serious credibility.
Lab Escape Theory
In fact, the lab escape theory emerged from some media figures even before COVID-19 had reached a global pandemic phase, and by March 17, 2020, scientists had already sequenced the virus’ genome and found it impossible to have been engineered. Then-US President Donald Trump revived the conspiracy theory in May as the outbreak spiraled out of control and US deaths approached 100,000 people. Figures from his administration have continued to push the discredited theory, with former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield making the claim just last week.
The administration of US President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has continued Trump’s line of attack, demanding Beijing hand over all its data on COVID-19 origins after the WHO team dismissed the lab escape theory last month. Trump’s secretary of state and former CIA director, Mike Pompeo, made the same comments just days earlier.
On Monday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also urged continued follow-up on the lab escape thesis, due to the team’s inconclusive results.