COVID: Top Chinese scientist says lab leak shouldn’t be ruled out

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The possibility that Covid escaped from a laboratory should not be excluded, he told the BBC George Gaoa former Chinese government scientist, the first expert linked to the Beijing authorities to admit such a probability.

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Gao, who headed the Chinese Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has played a key role in the response to the pandemic and efforts to trace its origins. Until now, the Chinese government has rejected any suggestions that the disease originated from China’s Wuhan laboratory.

The theory circulating when the pandemic broke out in 2020 was that the virus had spread naturally from bats to humans, perhaps through other animals, and that the origin was in a market in Wuhan.

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The facade of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in an image from 2021. Photo: AFP.

The facade of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in an image from 2021. Photo: AFP.

“You can always suspect anything. This is science. Don’t rule anything out.” Gao said in an interview with BBC Radio 4.

A virologist and immunologist, Gao is currently the vice president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. after withdrawing from the CDC last year.

Gao also indicated that some sort of formal investigation was being conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a sign, the BBC says, that the Chinese government may have taken the lab leak theory more seriously than its official statements suggest.

George Gao worked at the Center for Disease Control until last year.  Photo: Reuters.

George Gao worked at the Center for Disease Control until last year. Photo: Reuters.

“The government has organized something”, he said, but added that he did not involve his department, the China CDC.

The network asked the scientist to clarify whether this meant that another branch of government had done a formal search of WIV, a top Chinese national laboratory known for spending years studying coronaviruses.

Wuhan, the place where the pandemic started in 2020. Photo: AFP.

Wuhan, the place where the pandemic started in 2020. Photo: AFP.

“Yes,” he replied, “that lab has been scrutinized twice by industry experts.” This is the first admission that an official investigation has been conducted, but although prof. Gao claims he didn’t see the result, he said he “heard” that the lab received a certificate of good standing.

“I think the conclusion is that they are following all protocols. They have not found (any) irregularities,” he added.

Knowing how the virus jumped from bats to humans was somewhat controversial because there were two possibilities.

One is that the virus spread naturally from bats to humans, perhaps through other animals, and many scientists believe so the weight of the evidence suggests that this is the most likely scenario.

But other scientists point out that there isn’t enough evidence to rule out the main alternative possibility: that the virus infected someone involved in research designed to better understand the threat of naturally occurring viruses.

Source: EFE

Source: Clarin

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