Brits Deem Wuhan Virus Lab Origin Credible

As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggles with his own case of the Wuhan virus, the British equivalent of President Trump’s virus task force no longer dismisses out of hand the South China University study saying the virus likely leaked from nearby viral research labs as some tinfoil hat conspiracy theory. 

Boris Johnson's British government now has official doubts that the accepted conventional wisdom that the virus  spontaneously combusted from an obscure bat sold at a nearby “wet market” but which is in fact indigenous to a region some 900 kilometers distant from Wuhan that the locals do not in fact consume as food. It is seriously considering the at least equally likely possibility that the Wuhan virus escaped from one of the nearby viral research labs.

The DailyMailOnlie reports:

"Ministers fear that the coronavirus pandemic might have been caused by a leak from a Chinese laboratory, The Mail on Sunday can reveal....

One member of Cobra, the emergency committee led by Boris Johnson, said last night that while the latest intelligence did not dispute the virus was 'zoonotic' -- originating in animals -- it did not rule out that the virus first spread to humans after leaking from a Wuhan laboratory.
The member of Cobra, which receives detailed classified briefings from the security services, said: 'There is a credible alternative view [to the zoonotic theory] based on the nature of the virus. Perhaps it is no coincidence that there is that laboratory in Wuhan. It is not discounted.'

Wuhan is home to the Institute of Virology, the most advanced laboratory of its type on the Chinese mainland.

A second institute in the city, the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control – which is barely three miles from the market – is also believed to have carried out experiments on animals such as bats to examine the transmission of corona viruses....  

Britain’s Cobra commission are not the only experts outside of China questioning the bat theory as a too-convenient explanation pushed by a Chinese government that to this date does not allow outside inspection of the  labs which might show their culpability and criminal negligence in the global pandemic:

American biosecurity expert Professor Richard Ebright, of Rutgers University's Waksman Institute of Microbiology, New Jersey, said that while the evidence suggests Covid-19 was not created in one of the Wuhan laboratories, it could easily have escaped from there while it was being analysed.
Prof Ebright said he has seen evidence that scientists at the Centre for Disease Control and the Institute of Virology studied the viruses with only 'level 2' security -- rather than the recommended level 4 -- which 'provides only minimal protections against infection of lab workers'.
He added: 'Virus collection, culture, isolation, or animal infection would pose a substantial risk of infection of a lab worker, and from the lab worker then the public.'
He concluded that the evidence left 'a basis to rule out [that coronavirus is] a lab construct, but no basis to rule out a lab accident'."

As noted, a study by the South China University of Technology concluded that COVID-19 'probably' originated in the Wuhan Center for Disease Control. Curiously, shortly after its publication, the research paper was removed from a social networking site for scientists and researchers.

Critics claim that the Chinese study was suspect because Chinese institutions, which essentially are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Chinese Communist Party  (CCP), are inveterate liars. Yes, they are, as National Review’s Jim  Geraghty documents in “The Comprehensive Timeline of China’s Covid-19 Lies”. Amongst the chronology of Chinese lies is this gem:

Sometime in “Late December”: Wuhan hospitals notice “an exponential increase” in the number of cases that cannot be linked back to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The NEJM article notes:

The majority of the earliest cases included reported exposure to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, but there was an exponential increase in the number of nonlinked cases beginning in late December.

The operative word here is “reported.”  And it is worth noting, as right-wing conspiracy theorist David Ignatius of the Washington Post points out, the British medical journal Lancet noted in a January study that the first COVID-19 case in Wuhan had no connection to the seafood market.

As Geraghty shows such institutions are programmed to lie on behalf of the Chinese government and not to damn them, to blame a Chinese lab for unleashing a global pandemic. It is doubtful the CCP approved posting of the study or sanctioned it judging by the fact that it was pulled almost immediately. That suggests that in the age of global social media it temporarily slipped through the cracks and was pulled, not because it was a lie, but because it contained an embarrassing truth.

Critics point to studies downplaying it in favor of the discredited bat theory. But then didn’t we have the WHO  declaring in mid-January that the virus could not be transmitted human-to-human. There are many willing to carry China's water or at least look the other way. The study’s authors apparently were not and study author Botao Xiao's resume shows no indication of being a CCP stooge. As Geraghty reports in “The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs”:

From 2011 to 2013, Botao Xiao was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and his biography is still on the web site of the South China University of Technology.

At some point in February, Botao Xiao posted a research paper onto, “The Possible Origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus.” He is listed as one author, along with Lei Xiao from Tian You Hospital, which is affiliated with the Wuhan University of Science and Technology. The paper was removed a short time after it was posted, but archived images of its pages can be found here and here.

The first conclusion of Botao Xiao’s paper is that the bats suspected of carrying the virus are extremely unlikely to be found naturally in the city, and despite the stories of “bat soup,” they conclude that bats were not sold at the market and were unlikely to be deliberately ingested:

The bats carrying CoV ZC45 were originally found in Yunnan or Zhejiang province, both of which were more than 900 kilometers away from the seafood market. Bats were normally found to live in caves and trees. But the seafood market is in a densely-populated district of Wuhan, a metropolitan [area] of ~15 million people. The probability was very low for the bats to fly to the market. According to municipal reports and the testimonies of 31 residents and 28 visitors, the bat was never a food source in the city, and no bat was traded in the market.

Again, the study was probably pulled, not because it was a lie, but because it revealed an embarrassing truth. Third-party corroboration is hard to come by in a Communist police state and no reputable foreign experts have been invited in to survey the city or the nearby viral labs. Whistleblowers in China have a way of being jailed or simply disappearing. Unless O'Keefe at Project Veritas has some Mandarin-speaking operatives who can sneak in and out with a camera and stay alive. Unless someone defects, third-party corroboration may take a while.

Have we forgotten Dr. Li Wenliang, the 33-year-old ophthalmologist based in Wuhan, the epicenter of the contagion, who tried to tell the world that China was hiding something malevolent only to be silenced and imprisoned by Chinese authorities for allegedly fabricating lies about the disease’s deadly potential?  He would later die of the disease he tried to warn us about and the Chinese tried to keep under wraps.

Then there is the case of Dr Ai Fen, the Wuhan doctor who was among the first to alert other medics to the spread of coronavirus:

Dr. Ai Fen said she faced 'unprecedented, extremely harsh reprimanded' by officials at Wuhan Central Hospital after she shared a picture of a patient report labelled 'SARS coronavirus'.

The image was widely circulated and made its way to whistle-blower Li Wenliang who raised the alarm about the bug, which has killed more than 41,000 people worldwide.

Dr Li was reprimanded by authorities for 'illegally spreading untruthful information online'

Dr Ai gave an interview to a Chinese magazine criticising the hospital's management for dismissing the early warnings of the coronavirus but has not been seen since, 60 Minutes Australia reported.

Early on and to this day Chinese authorities have been loath to let outside authorities canvass the scene or visit the viral labs.  The question is why if this is a natural virus outbreak. Were the bats touted as a natural source in fact brought to the labs for deadly and dangerous research from whence they escaped?  As noted, even David Ignatius at the Washington Post recently put his tinfoil hat on in a piece that makes some noteworthy points titled “How did covid-19 begin? Its initial origin story is shaky”:

“…What’s increasingly clear is that the initial “origin story” -- that the virus was spread by people who ate contaminated animals at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan -- is shaky.

Scientists have identified the culprit as a bat coronavirus, through genetic sequencing; bats weren’t sold at the seafood market, although that market or others could have sold animals that had contact with bats. The Lancet noted in a January study that the first covid-19 case in Wuhan had no connection to the seafood market.

There’s a competing theory -- of an accidental lab release of bat coronavirus -- that scientists have been puzzling about for weeks. Less than 300 yards from the seafood market is the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers from that facility and the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology have posted articles about collecting bat coronaviruses from around China, for study to prevent future illness. Did one of those samples leak, or was hazardous waste deposited in a place where it could spread?...

And then there’s the Chinese study that was curiously withdrawn. In February, a site called ResearchGate published a brief article by Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao from Guangzhou’s South China University of Technology. “In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk biohazardous laboratories,” the article concluded."

The British are leaning to the opinion that the Chinese Wuhan virus was not just a random event but rather a “Chinese Chernobyl” the latest in a series of viruses that have become China’s major and deadliest export to the world yet. The Brits want to follow the actual evidence where it leads. So should we.

Daniel John Sobieski is a former editorial writer for Investor’s Business Daily and freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Human Events, Reason Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.               

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