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There is a growing credibility of a theory that the Covid-19 virus escaped from a Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory a critical theory rather than being transmitted from a primitive “wet market”. This morning’s comment by the Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal joins the dots. It is republished below. Also, what was first dismissed as a Trump Fantasy is being taken seriously by his successor to sanction an official investigation with a 90 day deadline. A reminder of how we sapiens need beware of “contempt prior to examination”. – Alec Hogg
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The Virus Lab Theory’s New Credibility
The evidence catches up to Fauci and other Wuhan Covid deniers.
May 26, 2021 6:06 pm ET
President Biden on Wednesday ordered U.S. intelligence to dig deeper into the origins of Covid-19, a reversal after he reportedly ordered a State Department investigative unit shut down. Mr. Biden is trying to cover for his embarrassing closure of the investigation because the dam has finally broken on the evidence that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The shame is that it took so long because the suspicious facts have been apparent from the start.
In January 2020, international media began reporting about a virus spreading in the Chinese city of Wuhan. “The coronavirus could result in a global pandemic,” said Sen. Tom Cotton on Jan. 30, 2020. “I would note that Wuhan has China’s only biosafety level-four super laboratory that works with the world’s most deadly pathogens to include, yes, coronavirus.”
The world would learn more about Covid-19—and the WIV. But it was always reasonable to ask if the virus came from a nearby lab that handled dangerous viruses. On Feb. 6, 2020, Botao Xiao of the South China University of Technology posted a paper concluding the virus “probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.” But the Chinese government strictly controls research into Covid-19’s origins, and the molecular biomechanics researcher withdrew his publication.
The Communist Party then went on offense, with Beijing’s ambassador to the U.S. declaring that lab-leak theories were “absolutely crazy” and could “fan up racial discrimination, xenophobia.” After Mr. Cotton responded by calling on China to “open up now to competent international scientists,” the media chose denial: “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked” (Washington Post) and “Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins” ( New York Times ).
The public-health clerisy also set boundaries for allowable discussion. On Feb. 19, 2020, the Lancet published a statement by scientists condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” Although some academics quietly dissented, the document was promoted as proof that the lab possibility was “debunked.”
The Lancet statement was organized by Peter Daszak, whose nonprofit has funded research at the WIV. He had a clear interest in dismissing the lab theory, which could put future research dollars at risk. The zoologist served on the World Health Organization’s investigatory team dispatched to Wuhan earlier this year. Mr. Daszak still insists the lab-leak theory is preposterous—though three of the Lancet signees have since said it deserves more consideration.
In May 2020 Dr. Fauci dismissed the lab theory in an interview with National Geographic. But his National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases had funded the WIV through Mr. Daszak’s nonprofit. Even if U.S. funding didn’t go directly to research that potentially caused the pandemic, it’s still problematic.
Prominent Republican officials like Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump began to support the theory, but they were accused of trying to distract from the Administration’s pandemic missteps. Dr. Fauci’s dismissal also came as news reports relished the divisions between the White House and scientific advisers. CNN declared that “ Anthony Fauci just crushed Donald Trump’s theory on the origins of the coronavirus.”
This dominant narrative eventually ran into a problem: No one has discovered a natural origin for Covid-19, and new information is making a blanket denial of a lab leak indefensible. The most significant disclosure came from Mr. Trump’s State Department in January.
“The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses,” the fact sheet read. It noted that the WIV maintains links with the Chinese military and had not been transparent or consistent about its work on viruses similar to Covid-19. The Biden Administration largely accepted these findings in public, though and even Dr. Fauci recognized the possibility of a lab leak this week.
The WHO’s Wuhan visit this year produced little new information but ruled a lab leak “extremely unlikely.” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan criticized the inquiry. Even WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus called for “further investigation” into whether the virus came from a laboratory. This month a group of scientists published a letter in the journal Science noting “theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable.”
This scrutiny should have started a year ago, but media partisanship derailed fair discussion. Many “experts” made political calculations and fell prey to groupthink rather than following the science.
This isn’t merely a score-keeping exercise. The Wuhan origin story is vital to understanding how to prevent the next pandemic; how to better run dangerous labs; and how to defend humanity. The world still needs an honest and open investigation.
Appeared in the May 27, 2021, print edition.
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