Science

Is the Lab Leak Theory True?

READING TIME ~ 3 MINUTES

The coronavirus has taken the lives of almost 3.5 million people. But another issue is that its origins are still unknown to the world. Some have theorized that the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China— the Wuhan Institute of Virology — which was dismissed at first. However, it has recently gained more scrutiny, with many elaborating on its credibility.

Key Items to Consider:

  1. Demanding China for Answers
  2. Conspiracies or Theories?
  3. Suddenly Credible?
  4. What’s Happening in the Government now?

1: Demanding China for Answers

Starting December 30th, 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission informed of some abnormalities to medical institutions in Wuhan. Following this, a tweet was posted on January 5th, 2020, by @GarboHK, blaming China for the virus. This claim grew in interest within Congress (and the media), where Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas began questioning its origins, demanding China for answers. After this, Botan Xiao, a molecular biomechanics researcher at the South China University of Technology, reported on the coronavirus’s origins possibly originating from a Wuhan lab. His paper was later withdrawn a few weeks after an announcement of no such event by Chinese authorities.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas in Washington. Cotton was talking about the virus and speculating its origins. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

2: Conspiracies or Theories?

Many thoughts of the origins of this virus began to come up. These were common thoughts spread from person to person, even spreading within politics. However, government officials, media, and scientists largely debunked these statements, dismissing them as conspiracy theories. Such ridicules came from Lancet, a popular peer-reviewed medical journal, and the Washington Post. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a 28-day investigation into the origins of the virus, establishing four different theories:

  1. “direct contact with the host species, the horseshoe bat”
  2. “transmission to humans via an as yet unknown intermediary species”
  3. “originated under the first or second scenarios and was then transmitted via cold chain products”
  4. “leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is known to have studied captive coronaviruses”
Peter Ben Embarek, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), attends the WHO-China joint study news conference at a hotel in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 9, 2021. (REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo)

3: Suddenly Credible?

In November 2019, US intelligence discovered that many researchers at Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized. This was found to be crucial information, as previous statements from researchers in the institute indicated no contact with the virus until December 2019 — specifically the 30th of December. With the theories of the WHO published in March 2020, the lab leak theory was found to be “extremely unlikely.” Many sources have claimed initial coverups of the virus set by China, including disappearances of many who have attempted to warn people of the virus early on. There have been many pushes for an open investigation in China, yet Chinese authorities have continuously declined. Although officials still declare the lab leak theory to be unlikely, along with the theory of intentional creation of the virus by China as a bioweapon, there are still calls for more investigation into such suspicions.

Wuhan Institute of Virology (VCG)

4: What’s Happening in the Government now?

Originally, the GOP promoted the theory of a lab leak over the theory being spread through a bat. The Democratic Party dismissed such an approach as merely a political assertion. Over many months of widespread debate and an election, the political atmosphere began to change. After many months of politicizing and demoting such theories, the government is now joining worldwide pressure into an investigation of such events. On May 26th, 2021, President Biden ordered intelligence on the origins of the virus, to weigh in on the original theory of the lab leak. Two such scenarios that are likely but still lack evidence are currently being investigated. Along with the investigation, the Senate passed two amendments related to funding for Wuhan:

  1. One amendment “would block U.S. funding of Chinese ‘gain of function’ research on enhancing the severity or transmissibility of a virus”
  2. The second amendment “would prevent any funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology”
President Joe Biden said that he is asking the intelligence community to submit another report to him within 90 days on the origins of COVID-19 (ABC News)

TL;DR

  • With the world continuing to be vaccinated, questions about the origins of the virus have revived
  • Original calls for answers from China have now been addressed by the government
  • The once called Lab Leak Theory is now being investigated by the government, considered to be a more credible theory
  • The Senate has even passed legislation to prevent funding to China

Sources

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-china-explaine/explainer-the-whos-theories-about-the-origins-of-covid-19-after-wuhan-probe-idUSKBN2AA0QK

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/05/25/timeline-how-wuhan-lab-leak-theory-suddenly-became-credible/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/25/politics/wuhan-lab-covid-origin-theory/index.html

https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-health-f98d73476a1a4942ca5528fa5dfff70f

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/biden-says-us-intelligence-community-divided-covid-origin-2021-05-26/

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/05/26/democrats-covid-lab-leak-theory-490951

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/05/chinese-lab-leak-hypothesis-coronavirus/619000/

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