On May 8, the accidental outbreak of the Covid virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (IVW) was discussed here. The idea was to restore this possibility without feeding on conspiracy theories and anti-Chinese theories, but some of the readers understood the contribution.
Six days later, Science published a letter from 18 researchers recommending an in-depth study of its origin. Two more weeks and US President Joe Biden ordered the intelligence services to test the laboratory leak theory.
A month ago, Nicholas Wade’s supportive article in his defense not to dismiss the random scenario had seemed convincing. Since then, however, the topic has been hijacked by ideological polarization and derailed, so to speak.
Admitting that the laboratory origin is possible does not mean that it is probable, nor does the zoonosis overflow thesis (when a virus leaps to humans from some animal species that have not yet been identified after 18 months of pandemic). Let it be very clear.
And that happens in 1h17min clarification in the podcast TWiV (This Week in Virology, or “This Week in Virology”) by Vincent Racaniello. He invited three experts to the program on the 27th who took part in the World Health Organization (WHO) investigation visit to the city of Wuhan and the IVW: Peter Daszak, Thea Kølsen Fischer and Marion Koopmans.
Following the program can be challenging given the English jargon, but enlightening. It was great to hear Daszak in particular, as the researcher was at the center of the controversy as he was suspected of having an interest in covering up an accident by working with Shi Zengli, a specialist in coronavirus modifications at IVW .
The team spent a month in the Chinese city, including two weeks in quarantine. The mandate of the WHO mission included conducting interviews and analyzing data or reports received from the Chinese side, and they claim to have received everything they asked for in this first phase of the investigation.
The trio were upset by the letter in Science, although they didn’t disagree with the suggestion to further investigate the origins of Sars-CoV-2. After all, they argue, they haven’t done anything else and are doing nothing else – they are currently working on initiating the second phase of the investigation. And they claim that the idea of an accident has resurfaced only on the basis of argument, not new evidence.
The claim that IVW officials fell ill weeks before the outbreak of Covid in Wuhan, for example, is not supported in hospital files, but in a flimsy memo by then US Secretary of State (Chancellor) Mike Pompeo, published five days before Trump took office. Biden just repeats it.
Daszak says he asked the U.S. government to include evidence of the infections in the investigation. He never got it. He admits that access to Chinese records was also imperfect, but also found the justifications for what was not available to be coherent and acceptable.
Racaniello’s program held the harshest criticism of Wade’s journalistic work, which would have highlighted alleged biomolecular evidence of artificial construction (the infamous “furin cleavage site”) when the suspicion was dismissed months before his article.
Daszak, Fischer and Koopmans agree that more research is needed into the origins of Covid, but argue that priority should be given to the most likely hypothesis. The current politicization, they allege, only hinders China’s cooperation with phase 2 of the WHO investigation. Without listening to the other side, the truth about the corona will not be reached.
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