Was the source of COVID-19 a laboratory in Wuhan? How was the coronavirus transmitted from bat to human? As it turns out, the “Wuhan Animal Market” can no longer be assumed as the source of the virus. The Wuhan Institute for Virology (WIV) which is close to this market, is now the focus of researchers as the source of the novel coronavirus.
The Chinese central government has reacted quickly, banning any media research. On the other hand, scientific research to find the source of the virus has been categorized as a security matter, and the Chinese government has extensively censored scientific research on the subject.
The London’s Daily Mail, reported that exactly at this institute at the center of Coronavirus’s outbreak, bats and pigs have been subjects of widespread research as the source of the outbreak. Shortly after the report was published, the Chinese Foreign Minister contacted his British counterpart, Dominic Robb, and called for an end to the publication of such reports.
The censorship of the truth did not apply only to journalists and the media. Beijing also silenced the scientists. According to CNN, the Chinese central government has ordered the censorship of all scientific research on the coronavirus: any scientific paper on the origin of the coronavirus must first be approved by the authorities before it can be published.
Chinese researchers initially thought that the coronavirus had been transmitted to humans for the first time at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where actually all living things are sold as human food. The hypothesis was made by Mr. Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Disease Control and Prevention Department, at a news conference on January 22, 2020. The first patients either worked in this market or were in contact with the traders of this market. Wei Guixian, a 57-year-old shrimp seller who was admitted to hospital on December 10, 2019, was named “Patient Zero.”
These assumptions are now baseless. In a paper published by the highly acclaimed scientific journal Science, the findings of Chinese scientists on the first 41 patients with coronavirus are reported. Thirteen of these individuals had no connection to the Wuhan Animal Market. The research concludes that “the Wuhan Animal Market cannot be the only source of the virus.”
Since the publication of this article, views have been focused on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is located not far from the Wuhan Animal Market. The coronavirus family has been the subject of extensive research for many years at WIV.
Professor Shi Zhengli is one of the institute’s top virologists. She has spent years in caves in the country looking for a variety of viruses in bat feces. According to her report who’s nicknamed “Bat Woman” by her colleagues, she had brought samples from 28 Chinese provinces to Wuhan laboratory over a 12-year period. She was the one who, very early in December 2019, after reporting the first cases of the disease, managed to detect the coronavirus in the body of patients.
Over many years of research, Bat Woman had built one of the largest databases of the Coronavirus family in Wuhan. She found that the source of the reported disease was a virus that was genetically 96% similar to one of the viruses cultured in her lab. That’s why very early on January 7, 2020, the Wuhan Institute of Virology succeeded in sequencing the complete genome of the novel coronavirus. Surprisingly, a year ago, on March 11, 2019, Bat Woman published an article in which she “predicts” the high probability of transmitting the coronavirus from bat to human and the emergence of a new wave of coronavirus infection!
What is certain today is that the institute has been researching the transmission of coronavirus to other animals for years. For example, this article was published in “Nature” (2018) and this one in “Plos” (2017) both about this type of researches. The Chinese government has never denied this. On the other hand, the deliberate production of this virus as a biological weapon has no basis in reality except in the minds of conspiracy theorists.
However, the question now is how safe is the Wuhan Institute of Virology? The likelihood that the virus has spread from the lab as a result of an accident has increased. The Washington Post published a report on April 14, 2020, in which US diplomats at the Beijing embassy had repeatedly expressed their concern about the safety and security of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in reports sent to Washington. The reports mention the issue of “lack of trained specialists in this high-security laboratory.” In January 2018, diplomats also reported that a virus similar to SARS, from coronavirus family, could be transmitted from bat to human. What raises the controversy surrounding the Washington Post report is that as soon as it was published, the Wuhan Institute of Virology deleted the report of the American group’s visit to the institute from its official website.
At a time when the world and the public around the world need transparency and truth, the Chinese government has erected an iron wall. No one has access to independent research resources anymore. The world is mired in the deepest humanitarian crisis since World War II due to a deadly virus outbreak, and the Chinese communist government refuses to accept any responsibility for this tragedy inflicted on humanity. But what history has repeatedly shown is this: the truth always comes out, sooner or later!
Cover: Giv Meraj
Translation of this article by Sahar.