A new report throwing a spanner in the works as scientists scramble to determine the origins of COVID-19 has not ruled out the possibility that the virus may have leaked from a US lab, with the conclusions being hailed as “devastating” as experts call for “more transparency” surrounding potential cover-ups amid a pandemic that has killed over 20 million people.
The report, which was carried out over two years and published by the Lancet Commission, while accepting that the virus may have originated via a number of various different scenarios, does not rule out the possibility that could have been the result of a laboratory incident at the hands of US researchers.
Noting that “independent researchers have not yet investigated” the US labs, it warns that the National Institutes of Health have “resisted disclosing details” about the work they have been undertaking.
Matt Ridley, a Conservative MP and co-author of ‘Viral: The search for the origin of Covid-19’, told Express.co.uk: “The Lancet Commission has done a thorough job and its conclusions are devastating: that no independent, transparent and science-based investigation into the origin of the pandemic has been carried out and that the lab notebooks and databases of relevant institutions in Wuhan and New York must be made public.”
He added: “It is also right to point out that poor enforcement of biosafety protocols leaves open the possibility that a lab leak was responsible. Nearly three years after the start of a pandemic that has killed probably 20 million people, the world deserves greater transparency.”
However, the Lancet report does not rule out the possibility that the virus may have also been the result of a natural spillover, originating in animals and then spreading via human-to-human contact.
But while the Lancet Commission claims that it should not be ruled out that SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes Covid, may have come from a lab leak too, other researchers claim they have found “compelling evidence” which indicates that the virus was more likely to have come from a zoonotic spillover.
Virologist Professor David Robertson of the University of Glasgow, authored a paper published in July arguing that the lab leak theory is a “false record”, with it being far more likely that the outbreak first began at the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. He told the BBC that his findings would “correct the false record that the virus came from a lab”.
However, Prof Jeffery Sachs, the chair of the Covid-19 Commission which carried out the Lancet report, has previously said that “there’s enough evidence that it should be looked into and it’s not being investigated — not in the US, not anywhere”.
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He believes that “they [US officials] don’t want to look under the rug too much”, perhaps amid fears that the US really did play a role in the Covid-19 outbreak. Prof Sachs told the Telegraph that “the question of a possible laboratory release mostly involves the question of US-China joint work that was underway on Sars-like viruses”.
This is despite that virus is thought to have spread from the Wuhan wet market which is just eight miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) that works on coronaviruses.
But while Mr Ridley welcomed the Lancet report’s findings, a number of scientists have torn apart the claims of the paper. Prof David Robertson, director of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Virus Research, has even argued that the report risks spreading disinformation.
He told the Telegraph that it is a “wild speculation” to claim that US labs may have been involved in the spreading of COVID-19. But a spokesperson for the Lancet said that the publication “regularly evaluated the work of each Task Force as scientific evidence about Covid-19 evolved, to ensure that the final peer-reviewed report will provide valuable new insights to support a coordinated, global response to Covid-19 as well as to prevent future pandemics and contain future disease outbreaks”.
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Mr Ridley, who has previously said the Wuhan lab leak theory is the most convincing explanation for the birth of Covid, has also hit out at China for a “ruthless cover-up” of information, with his reaction to the recent Lancet report not being the first time he has called for greater transparency.
He told Express.co.uk back in January: “There is a growing problem in science of an increasing tendency to put political reasons above full transparency and openness, and I think that is a pity.
“Frankly, much of the world now thinks it is possible that Covid started with a lab leak so the impact on China’s reputation is already to some extent baked in. And it comes at a time when China’s behaviour toward Hong Kong and the Uighur people is already damaging its reputation.
“The best thing the Chinese regime could do now is say ‘look, we would like to get at the truth too, we will be as open as we can, come in and help us properly investigate in a credible exactly what has happened, and we will learn the lessons from it’.”