The Daily Mail revealed on Sunday that British ministers fear that a leak from a Chinese laboratory might have caused the coronavirus pandemic.
The possibility that a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, China is 'no longer being discounted' even though there is a balance of scientific advice that coronavirus was first transmitted to humans from a live animal market in Wuhan, according to senior sources from the British government.
However, they did not dispute the virus as "zoonotic," meaning its origins are from animals, said one member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's emergency committee last night. It did not rule out that the virus first spread to humans after a leak from the Wuhan laboratory.
"There is a credible alternative view of the zoonotic theory based on the nature of the virus. Perhaps it is no coincidence that there is that laboratory in Wuhan. It is not discounted," according to a member of the 'Cobra' committee, that receives detailed classified briefings from the security services.
Laboratory Leak in Wuhan
Wuhan Virology Institute is considered to be the most advanced virology laboratory in mainland China. It is located ten miles from the infamous wildlife market and is supposed to be one of the most secure virology laboratories in the world.
In 2018, the state-run People's Daily newspaper said that the laboratory is capable of conducting experiments with highly pathogenic microorganisms like the deadly Ebola virus. Experts from the institute were the first to suggest that the genome of the coronavirus was 96 percent similar to one commonly found in bats.
There have been unverified reports that the workers at the virology institute became first infected after being sprayed by blood, and then spread the virus into the local population. This happened despite the institute's reputation for high security.
Another virology institute in Wuhan City is the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control. The laboratory is barely 3 miles away from the live animal market and believed to have carried out experiments on animals like bats to study the coronavirus transmission.
While evidence suggests COVID-19 was not created in one of the laboratories in Wuhan, the presence of their laboratories means that they could easily have been, said Professor Richard Ebright, a biosecurity expert from Rutgers University's Waksman Institute of Microbiology.
Professor Ebright also revealed that scientists at both the Chinese laboratories -the Centre for Disease Control- who studied the viruses are employing only 'level 2' security rather than the recommended level 4. This provides only minimal protection against infection of the people inside the laboratory and other lab workers.
It is especially critical to enhance biosecurity measures because virus collection, isolation, culture, or animal infection will pose a risk of infection to laboratory workers, and from them to the general public, Prof. Ebright warns.
He added that the evidence he saw left a basis to rule out the COVID-19 as made inside a laboratory, but there is no basis for ruling out that it is not a lab accident.
Origins of the Virus
There have been reports in Chinese news outlets regarding the origin of coronavirus in the Center for Disease Control, but it was removed shortly from its publication. Intriguingly, others also reported the first person to be infected was from the Institue of Virology but it was denied by the institute stating that the person has never been diagnosed with the disease and is not part of the institute anymore since 2015.
Likewise, it is also denied by the Chinese embassy spokesman stating that there is no scientific or medical conclusion yet on the origin of COVID-19. The World Health Organization also repeatedly said that the source is undetermined, and the world should focus more on the containment and any stigmatizing statement referring to specific areas must be avoided.
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