Two Dozen Scientists Question W.H.O. Inquiry Into the Coronavirus Pandemic’s Origins, Press for Investigation Into Possible Lab Leak

James Gorman, reporting for The New York Times:

A small group of scientists and others who believe the novel coronavirus that spawned the pandemic could have originated from a lab leak or accident is calling for an inquiry independent of the World Health Organization’s team of independent experts sent to China last month. […]

The open letter, first reported in The Wall Street Journal and the French publication Le Monde, lists what the signers see as flaws in the joint W.H.O.-China inquiry, and state that it could not adequately address the possibility that the virus leaked from a lab. The letter further posits the type of investigation that would be adequate, including full access to records within China. […]

Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University and one of the scientists who signed the letter, said it grew out of a series of online discussions among scientists, policy experts and others who came to be known informally as the Paris group. […] He said that no one in the group thought that the virus had been intentionally created as a weapon, but they were all convinced that an origin in a lab through research or by accidental infection was as likely as a spillover occurring in nature from animals to humans.

I caught more flak after linking favorably to Nicholson Baker’s “The Lab Leak Hypothesis” cover story for New York magazine two months ago than anything I’ve posted in recent memory. But the lab-leak theory is looking more likely as time goes on, not less. And without question it ought to be investigated thoroughly — which is what the open letter is calling for.

A lot of the “facts” people think they know about the coronavirus’s origins just aren’t true. The whole thing about the virus jumping to humans from meat sold at a Wuhan “wet market”? Not true. The market was just the location of a super-spreader event. Pangolins — the scaly anteaters that were much publicized last year as the possible source? Now deemed unlikely.

It’s true there is no available evidence that COVID-19 leaked from a Wuhan lab, but there’s also no evidence that it originated zoonotically. With the original SARS coronavirus, investigators found animals suspected of spreading it to humans. It is curious, to say the least, that no animal source for COVID-19 has been found. It is also suspicious, to say the least, that the Chinese government is stymying any and all attempts to investigate the Wuhan virology labs.

Saturday, 6 March 2021