Wuhan lab leak scenario could be hard to prove, even after regaining credibility

Now that investigators are honestly examining the possibility that the coronavirus may have escaped from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, investigators and intelligence agencies still have an uphill battle as they seek to identify the origins of the disease. ‘epidemic.

The lab leak theory has gained credibility in the United States and abroad in recent weeks after an explosive Wall Street Journal report found that three researchers from a Wuhan virology lab presented symptoms of COVID-19 at the end of 2019 – well before the pandemic. But that remains to be proven, as do competing hypotheses about how the virus came to infect a human for the first time.

“We don’t know what happened, but a lot of data has probably been destroyed or gone missing, so it will be difficult to definitively prove the case of a ‘gain-of-function’ being the cause of the pandemic, Richard Dearlove, the former head of UK intelligence agency MI6, told The Telegraph this week.

Security personnel gather near the entrance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization team to Wuhan, China's Hubei Province, Wednesday, February 3. 2021. (AP Photo / Ng Han Guan)

Security personnel gather near the entrance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization team to Wuhan, China’s Hubei Province, Wednesday, February 3. 2021. (AP Photo / Ng Han Guan)


Gain-of-function research is controversial and involves the manipulation and strengthening of viruses.

However, whether or not there is physical evidence at hand does not matter.

“We’re not going to go in and see the evidence anyway, it doesn’t matter if it was there, if it wasn’t there,” former Moscow CIA station chief Daniel Hoffman said Thursday. , a Fox News contributor. “The Chinese aren’t going to give us any evidence, but all that matters is that there was evidence at some point.”

Intelligence collectors, he said, will have to try to narrow down the possibilities, and then decide whether each of them has a low, medium, or high probability.

“A lot of times we don’t get forensic evidence and go to visit a place,” he said. “We may need to get it from the information we collect from people in the know who are going to tell us what they saw and what they didn’t see.”

For example, he said, at Chernobyl, the United States did not have investigators on the ground. But the truth came out later.

The United States has a consulate in Wuhan, Hoffman noted, and the institute of virology was built by the French. Many Western officials have been inside the facility.

“What is their opinion? He asked. “What did the security protocols look like? Good or bad? What do they think about what might or might not have happened? There is a lot of information you can collect. “


Even without conclusive evidence, with enough detail and enough pressure, the developed world can take advantage of China to at least increase its lab safety protocols to reduce the likelihood of future lab leaks, Hoffman said – although we We may never know conclusively the origin of COVID-19.

Earlier Thursday, former State Department officials confirmed to Fox News that around the onset of the pandemic, an investigation into the laboratory leak theory was discouraged over fears it would draw attention to US funding for controversial gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Regardless of the genesis of the virus, it’s clear that it emerged in Wuhan, where researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were actively studying coronavirus strains at the time.

But the global scientific community was quick to reject a laboratory leak theory, and critics of former President Donald Trump, who spoke in favor of the possibility, dismissed it as “debunked”. over a year ago.

The laboratory leak hypothesis gained credibility when President Biden said U.S. intelligence services included it as one of “two probable scenarios” that could have led to the outbreak.


The other is that he jumped to humans from animals – probably a bat. So far, researchers have not found the so-called intermediate animal from which the virus could have passed to humans in Wuhan.

The president announced a 90-day deadline for federal investigators to finalize a report.

Rich Edson and Adam Shaw of Fox News contributed to this report.

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