China pushed to open up labs as Covid leak theory gains support

Published by The Mail on Sunday (15th August, 2021)

China is coming under pressure to share data and open up its virus research centres in Wuhan to proper outside investigation amid growing credibility for the theory that a laboratory incident might have sparked the Covid pandemic.

It follows an admission by the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) origins study that Patient Zero may have been linked to research or sample collection by Wuhan scientists – as suggested by the US State Department in January.

Peter Ben Embarek, a Danish food scientist, led the WHO team that earlier this year collaborated with China to dismiss the possibility of a laboratory leak as ‘extremely unlikely’ but now says there might have been ‘human error’.

An investigation in today’s Mail on Sunday exposes how Shi Zhengli, a leading bat virus researcher at the maximum-security Wuhan Institute of Virology, has given ambiguous, deceptive or false information on a range of subjects, from the safety and nature of their research through to her centre’s military links.

Shi – known as Batwoman for her work with bats – made misleading claims to the WHO inquiry team, such as saying her team always wore full protective equipment when collecting samples in bat caves and alleging a key database containing thousands of virus sequences and samples was taken offline due to hacking.

The WHO, which has been condemned for kowtowing to China, is now in a stand-off with Beijing as it pushes for a deeper probe into Covid-19’s origins, with demands for laboratory audits and more data from the very early days of the outbreak.

China has rebuffed these suggestions, claiming the inquiry should look at other countries. It has made increasingly aggressive claims against the United States as a possible source of the pandemic.

‘We need an open investigation into the cause of the Covid outbreak to prevent a repeat of the disaster of these past two years,’ said Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affair select committee. ‘We haven’t even started to learn the truth.’

He added that the Communist regime was trying to control and frustrate inquiries. ‘Even famous scientists are afraid of Beijing’s dictators and feel they have to cover up the failures of the state,’ he added.

The Mail on Sunday has led the way exposing China’s cover-up over the pandemic outbreak with a series of global scoops.

They include revelations of US funding of high-risk research in Wuhan, safety concerns over Wuhan laboratories, scientific questions over the composition of the new virus, conflicts of interest among key figures tied to China and collusion among the scientific establishment attempting to stifle debate on a possible laboratory leak.

Last year, we disclosed how the WHO and its director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian foreign minister, buckled to Beijing’s stance from the first days of the pandemic – with disastrous consequences.

Today, these revelations are taken up by The Sunday Times with a major probe by its Insight investigations team into China’s ‘power-grab’ that fuelled the pandemic.

The WHO said on Friday that it was setting up a new group to trace the origins of the coronavirus, seeking to end what it called ‘political point scoring’ that has hampered investigations.

In a sign of the increasingly fraught nature of this tussle, China’s state media was accused last week of spreading fake news in its efforts to discredit the WHO after it was discovered to be quoting a Swiss biologist who does not seem to exist.

Leading media outlets quoted ‘Wilson Edwards’, who was reported to be claiming the US government was pressuring the WHO to investigate the lab leak hypothesis.

The references were deleted after Swiss diplomats said there was no such citizen with that name, nor could they find any academic articles by such a character.

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