Did coronavirus come from a lab in China? What we know of the new investigation so far

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US president Joe Biden has ordered US intelligence agencies to conduct a review into the origins of COVID-19. There has been a long standing theory that coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. A statement from the US reads: “It is critical that China provides independent experts full access to complete, original data and samples relevant to understanding the source of the virus and the early stages of the pandemic.”

The announcement had revived interest in the theory that coronavirus escaped from a lab in China, once thought a conspiracy theory that died with the Trump era.

The US mission to the UN in Geneva said the original study was “insufficient and inconclusive”, and called for a second probe into where COVID-19 came from.

The US statement read: “It is critical that China provides independent experts full access to complete, original data and samples relevant to understanding the source of the virus and the early stages of the pandemic.”

China agreed through a representative at its embassy in the USA that “a comprehensive study of all early cases of COVID-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world.”

Simon Manley, Britain’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, said in a separate statement: “Phase one of the WHO-convened COVID-19 origins study was always meant to be the beginning of the process, not the end.

“We call for a timely, transparent, evidence-based, and expert-led phase two study, including in the People’s Republic of China, as recommended by the experts’ report.”

Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, told its annual meeting of health ministers on Wednesday: “We’ve had consultations informally with many member states to look at what happens in the next phase.

“And we will continue to have those discussions in the coming weeks.”

Has new evidence emerged?

Very little – although there is one striking new claim being made by the Wall Street Journal that US intelligence agencies were told three staff members at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were ill enough in November 2019 with a sickness that could have been COVID-19.

This claim is yet to be verified by US intelligence agencies.

“It was very precise,” one source told the WSJ, but added an important caveat: “What it didn’t tell you was exactly why they got sick.”

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Elsewhere, according to the New York Times two intelligence documents were produced discussing the sick workers, one focused on the three individuals, the second about what was known about the origins of the coronavirus.

Questions surrounding the case of sick workers includes whether symptoms were that of coronavirus, and whether the illness was related to work taking place in the lab.

It is extremely important to note that nowhere in the reports does it indicate coronavirus was created in a lab in China, rather that is where the first human cases could have occurred.

Elsewhere, US intelligence are also pursuing the more established theory that the virus jumped from animals to humans.

Outside of US circles, the broad consensus remains that it is highly likely the virus managed to jump from animal to human hosts in a natural event.

Such investigations by the US do not necessarily lend credibility to the theory that the virus came from a lab in China, rather persistent absence of any credible evidence for or against a number of theories.

Lab accidents do happen all the time, meaning that without further evidence a lab leak remains a possibility.

But the much more credible evidence we have from Sars and Mers suggests that coronaviruses do break out naturally and that understanding their origins is murky at best, especially with a type of virus that is only thought to have been with us since roughly January 2020.

At present, the bottom line is that it is still impossible to ascertain exactly where the virus originated.

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