Since the outbreak began in December, the most common assumption is that the virus originated in the so-called “wet market” of Wuhan, a Chinese city where the first COVID cases were reported. But with the spread of the virus around the world, the role of health laboratories in the United States has come under increasing public scrutiny. Chinese cities that fuel a multitude of theories, some more credible than others, but all with the same basic premise. In two laboratories in Wuhan, lengthy experiments with bat viruses helped scientists quickly identify the coronavirus as a potential threat to future nocturnal mammals.
But the same laboratories have also been fueled by biosafety concerns, and although the laboratories played a major role in the discovery of the first human COVID case in 2009, their performance has been eclipsed by the fact that the virus was first transmitted by a human following an accident in a laboratory. In diplomatic cables labeled “sensitive and not secret,” US embassy officials warned that the laboratories exhibited massive management deficiencies and posed a serious health risk, and warned Washington against interfering, warning it against interfering. The first cable, obtained by The Washington Post, also included a warning that the bat coronaviruses “potential for human transmission posed a risk of a new SARS – like a pandemic. The cable argued that the United States should do more to support Chinese researchers at the Wuhan lab because their research on bat coronavirus is important but dangerous. Since early 2018, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing have repeatedly visited the lab, where researchers are studying the impact of the virus on human health and human-to-animal transmission. Embassy staff said they had been monitoring the lab’s research on bat coronaviruses and their transmission potential to humans during their visits and had sent two warnings to the State Department asking the US government for assistance. John Roberts, former US ambassador to China, tells the Washington Post that “given the possibility of a new SARS” — like a pandemic sweeping the earth — the cable’s warnings fueled speculation that the Wuhan lab was the source of the virus. There is no evidence that the new coronavirus was made, and most scientists agree that it came from an animal, but it is likely that the virus came from a negligent laboratory in Wuhan, said Dr. David Hirsch, a professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Nonetheless, Pompeo and others have pointed the finger at the institute, run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which has conducted ground-breaking research tracing the likely origin of the SARS virus, finding a new bat virus, and discovering how it could reach humans. U.S. officials said the American Embassy in Beijing had raised concerns about possible safety problems at a laboratory in Wuhan in 2018. China, the country where the virus originally spread, is willing to deflect attention from its own problems with questionable theories and propaganda. While reporters denounced lawmakers for suggesting a possible link between the lab and the outbreak of the coronavirus, many media outlets ignored a new report that American officials had warned that research at the Wuhan super lab could trigger a pandemic. Senator Tom Cotton has been pilloried for questioning whether the deadly virus was transmitted from person to person at a fish market in Wuhan. In an interview with Fox News on February 16, Cotton raised the possibility that the outbreak originated in the Chinese Academy of Science’s super laboratory for research into human infectious diseases. Trump said he is questioning the cause of the highly contagious disease too.