The possibility that the Covid virus leaked from a laboratory should not be ruled out, said a top Chinese researcher who played a key role in the response to the pandemic and in efforts to trace the origin of the virus.
Professor George Gao was the head of China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC). His position is totally different from that expressed by the Government in Beijing, which rejects any hypothesis that the disease could have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan.
In an interview on the BBC Radio 4 podcast Fever: The Hunt for Covid’s Origin, Professor Gao said: “You can always suspect anything. That’s science. Don’t rule anything out.”
A world-renowned virologist and immunologist, Professor Gao is currently Vice President of the National Natural Science Foundation of China after retiring from the CDC last year.
Professor Gao told the BBC that some sort of official investigation had been carried out at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). “The government organized something,” he said, but stressed that it did not involve his own department, the China CDC. He was asked to clarify whether this meant another government structure had conducted official research into WIV – one of China’s top national laboratories known for having spent years studying coronaviruses. “Yes. that lab has been verified by experts in the field,” he replied.
It is the first such acknowledgment that some kind of official investigation has taken place, but while Professor Gao says he has not seen the result, he has “heard” that the lab has received a health certificate. “I think their conclusion is that they are following all protocols. They found no wrongdoing,” Gao added. Professor Gao’s comments about not ruling out a lab leak seriously contradict China’s publicly stated position. They are really risky.
“The so-called ‘lab leak’ is a lie created by anti-China forces. It is politically motivated and has no scientific basis,” said a statement issued by the Chinese embassy in the UK.
The theory that the virus accidentally escaped from a medical research lab re-emerged in the public eye in February, when the FBI director said such a lab was the “most likely” place of origin – although there is no consensus in among American intelligence agencies on this matter.
According to BBC reports, many scientists say the breadth of evidence suggests a natural origin – the virus spread from animals to humans – is the most likely scenario. The idea that this virus infected a person involved in research to ensure a better understanding of the threats posed by naturally occurring viruses is another suggestion.
The Chinese metropolis is home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), one of the top national laboratories in China, which is already known to have been studying various coronaviruses for many years. Wuhan’s Huanan seafood market and nearby hospitals have been the focus of research into a potential explanation for the virus’s emergence in the early stages of the pandemic.
An investigation into the origin of COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that it is “extremely unlikely” that the virus escaped from a laboratory. Plans to carry out the second phase of the WHO investigation, which included investigations in the laboratories in the area of the Wuhan metropolis, were rejected by the Chinese Government, stated the producers of the BBC Radio 4 podcast.
Editor : G.M.