Did the coronavirus emanate from a Chinese laboratory? Although this question was dismissed as a conspiracy theory early-on, an investigation has been launched by the US and UK intelligence officials to understand the exact reason behind the Covid-19 pandemic which has brought China back in the spotlight.
US and UK intelligence officials have admitted that they are extensively looking into the possibility that the virus might have started by an accident at a research facility in China.
“After extensive research scientist in the US and elsewhere have discovered that the new strain of coronavirus detected in China in December is as Chinese officials have maintained, of natural origin but they are taking seriously that its route to human infection may have sprung in a lab in Wuhan,” Jenna McLaughlin wrote.
The reason for the needle of suspicion pointing towards China is because of its lack of information dissemination with the rest of the world. Beijing’s denial of an investigation and the identification of the patient early on during the outbreak has raised suspicion amongst some US intelligence officials.
In fact, some of the first very cases of the infections were not traced back to the Wuhan market. Wuhan also has a number of important research institutions which include Wuhan National Biosafety Lab, Wuhan branch of Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborates with research institutions around the world including the US National Institute of Health and is an important site for the Global Virome Project, a global initiative focused on preventing the next pandemic by researching DNA and RNA of viruses in animals that could potentially infect humans.
Another flaw in the Chinese theory linking the spread of coronavirus in humans to animals is that the Chinese Government is yet to identify the exact animal from whom the virus infected humans and how. As a result, the alternate possibility that the virus might have escaped from a lab has not been effectively ruled out.
Chinese Universities, pressurized by Beijing, have also banned any research and publishing of the origins of coronavirus.
A former official who worked as a part of the Trump administration on China issue also told Yahoo News that the lab accident theory was a definite possibility. Another retired US Government official pointed to the US State Department report on arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament which mentioned the failure of Chinese officials to reassure safety inspectors regarding adherence to the protocols of the Biological Weapons Convention on matters related to dissemination of information on numerous toxins with potential dual-use application.
In late March, the FBI had found samples of SARS virus and flu in a Chinese scientist’s luggage which presented a biosecurity risk for terrorist acts and potential accident during research. According to the Washington Post, a cable sent by US State Department employees spoke about safety-related issues about one of the lab conducting bat coronavirus studies.
A former CIA official said that the US intelligence will trace the actual source of the outbreak with the help of disgruntled Chinese sources. He said, “Disaster are good for us as crappier the regime the better it is to recruit sources there.”