This new coronavirus outbreak’s source remains a puzzle, with experts disagreeing on whether the virus originated from a laboratory or a wet market in the city of Wuhan, China.
Though the scientific community has concluded the virus is natural and not human-made or modified, the chance that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan stays. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday added credence to this concept, stating that there is “enormous evidence,” the coronavirus emerged from a Chinese lab.
US officials familiar with intelligence reporting and analysis have stated they believe the virus escaped from a Wuhan government lab or have been introduced through contact in a market in town with wildlife.
Chinese officials, denying the laboratory was the source, have adhered to as the origin point for the virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, with its designation of the Hunan Seafood Market.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian blasted the concept that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab as “no scientific basis” on April 16 and has resisted the World Health Organization’s April 21 announcement that the virus probably originated in animals.
The laboratory argument
The balance of evidence indicates an accidental release from a Chinese laboratory. Though the public has yet to see definitive proof of the origins of this virus, experts on China Gordon Chang told Al Arabiya English.
The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the nation’s intelligence agencies and associations, said Thursday it agreed with”the huge scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus wasn’t or genetically modified.”
However, the agency said it’d continue to examine whether the live virus was accidentally released from a laboratory in China. The lab in question is that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, seen by US State Department officials in 2018. The officials increased safety concerns and warned that the institute could cause a pandemic that was SARS-like, according to a Washington Post report.
US President Trump said Thursday, after reviewing evidence, he had a”high degree of assurance” that the virus emanated from the institute.
Chang said attempts by Chinese governments to stop foreign virologists and epidemiologists from participating in its investigation into the origins of the virus is a”real sign Beijing has something to hide.”
As the source of this virus is rooted in politics, not evidence, 26, expert Peter Li said Trump’s mentioning of this Wuhan lab.
“It was a political style to channel Americans’ anger towards the Trump administration to China,” said Li, a professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
While Li said existing findings and evidence do not support the Wuhan lab virus escape theory, Chang subsequently said results do not support the market concept supported by Li.
An article published in renowned British medical journal The Lancet on January 24 reported that many of the initial COVID-19 instances in Wuhan had no contact with the moist marketplace.
“This means the wet marketplace is probably not the source of the disease,” Chang explained.
The wet market argument
However, another article from The Lancet is used to encourage the wet marketplace argument.
A February 29 piece said scientists from several nations”overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.”
Findings by Chinese scientists noted that the virus found from the first group of patients had been connected to environmental samples collected at the Wuhan wildlife market.
A vendor is handling chickens in a poultry market in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province. (File photo: AP)
“The Chinese government, such as President Xi Jinping, admitted the preliminary scientific conclusion that Wuhan’s wildlife wet market was connected to the outbreak,” said Li.
Yet, according to medical evidence, the patient had no exposure to the market.
While the disagreement over the location source of the virus has received much attention, Li said it has been politicized and is detracting from collaboration to eliminate the cause of future pandemics.
Researchers have also warned the debate might be in vain. Dr. Michelle Baker, an immunologist in CSIRO in Australia who studies viruses in rodents, said, “we do not know” the accuracy of the claim that the virus originated at the wildlife market.
“It’s a possible scenario, but we will never understand. We can only speculate,” she said in an interview with The Guardian.