A WORLD Health Organisation team will finally be probing claims Covid may have come from a lab leak in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Professor Dominic Dwyer, a member of the ten person team visiting China for WHO, revealed they are not ruling out the bombshell allegations, reports The Australian.
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Professor Dominic Dwyer claimed the WHO team WILL investigate the labCredit: PA:Press Association
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in ChinaCredit: Wuhan Virology Institute
WHO had been resistant to the theory, dismissing Trump’s comments as having “no evidence” and as “speculative”.
The organisation’s mission brief released ahead of the arrival of their team in China also made no mention of investigating the lab as a possible origin for the virus.
Prof Dwyer however today confirmed in an apparent U-turn that the lab will be probed and that China is “providing access” to WIV.
The Sun Online has contacted WHO further information on this apparent shift in focus.
“I’ve got an open mind about this sort of thing. Historically we know that the most likely thing is from animals into humans,” Prof Dwyer said, when asked about a lab leak.
“That happens all the time with viruses. But that doesn’t mean you discount the other alternatives.”
Prof Dwyer is one of the scientists leading leading the mission, dubbed the WHO Global Study of the Origins of SARS-CoV-2.
This is really about looking at the kind of work that needs to be done to understand the origins of the virus
WIV has faced scrutiny ever since Covid emerged last year, but has also furiously and repeatedly denied any link to the pandemic.
The lab is known to have been experimenting on bat coronaviruses, is the highest security lab of its kind in China, and is just a stone’s throw from the outbreak’s ground zero – the Huanan Seafood Market.
The probe revelation comes as The Sun revealed Trump is considering declassifying files containing his “evidence” of the lab leak theory before he leaves office next week.
WIV was conducting experiments on coronaviruses in bats
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE WUHAN INSTITUTE?
THE WUHAN Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in all of China – and can be found right at the heart of the origins of the global pandemic.
Various theories have been swirling about the lab, which is headed up by Chinese scientist Dr Shi Zhengli, known as “Bat Woman”.
Most scientists do not believe the virus leaked from the lab, and the lab itself has categorically denied the claims.
The lab specialised in bat-borne viruses and had been carrying out experiences on them since 2015.
Airlocks, full body suits, and chemical showers are required before entering and leaving the lab – the first in China to be accredited with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4).
BSL-4 labs are the only places in the world where scientists can study diseases that have no cure.
Scientists from the lab even tested mysterious virus which killed three miners 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province back in 2012.
It has been suggested this fatal mystery bug may have been the true origin of Covid-19.
Experts at the lab also engineered a new type of hybrid ‘super-virus’ that can infect humans in 2015, according to medical journal Nature Medicine
Despite fears surrounding the research, the study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to humans.
There is no suggestion the facility’s 2015 work is linked to the pandemic.
The lab was also recruiting new scientists to probe coronaviruses in bats just seven days before the outbreak.
China has began tightening security around its biolabs with President Xi Jinping saying it was a “national security” issue to improve scientific safety at a meeting last February.
Prof Dwyer, from the University of Sydney, said the delegation will examine early viruses cases and understand initial work done by Chinese scientists in Wuhan.
“This is really about looking at the kind of work that needs to be done to understand the origins of the virus,” he said.
The leading theory is that the virus emerged at a so-called wet market in Wuhan, but it is believed there were cases which pre-date the initial outbreak last December.
Prof Dwyer said: “What we don’t know was where the virus was before then.
“There are a few people who were infected before the marketplace outbreak, so that is telling us that there was some movement of the virus in humans prior to that, but where that happened is unknown.”
He added: “So was it just in Wuhan? Was it in neighbouring areas in that province or indeed elsewhere in China, or even elsewhere in the region for that matter?
“The third area we’ll be investigating is around what happened in the hospital environment in the early stages of the epidemic and what was happening in the laboratories that look after those hospitals and the research laboratories.”
Dr Shi Zhengli is lead the bat coronavirus scientist at WIV
WHO’s team last week was denied entry to China as claims grow of a potential “cover up” being staged by the Communist Party.
The organisation’s director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “disappointed” by the block, which the Chinese authorities claimed was a “misunderstanding”.
Dr Tedros told reporters that he had been in contact with Chinese officials to stress that the “mission is a priority for WHO and the international team”.
The long-awaited investigation was agreed by Beijing after months of negotiation with the WHO.
Documents already revealed Beijing downplayed the bug to “protect its image“, and there have been repeated allegations that China has manipulated its figures.
Meanwhile, some 300 coronavirus studies by the Wuhan lab have been erased, raising more questions over China’s attempts to stall investigators.
WIV has strongly denied any allegations of a lab leakCredit: Wuhan Virology Institute
WIV is known to have been creating hybrid coronaviruses for research purposes, but there is no suggestion Covid-19 is manmade.
China has repeatedly denied the allegations that Covid may have come from a lab and instead blamed global outbreaks.
Leaked diplomatic cables last year revealed fears from embassy officials about biosecurity at WIV during coronavirus experiments on bats.
WHO’s delegation are due to begin work in China tomorrow.
The research mission is expected to see the scientists meet with their Chinese counterparts as members of the team insist their job is “not political”.
WHO itself is facing questions about how it handled the early days of the pandemic, being accused by Trump of being “China-centric”.
The US temporality halted $500million of funding to WHO over its “disastrous” handling of the pandemic, and promoting Chinese “disinformation”.
Wuhan has now returned to a semblance of normality after being Covid’s ground zeroCredit: Getty Images – Getty
WIV top scientist Prof Shi Zhengli, known as Batwoman for her research, said last month she would welcome a visit to her lab.
“I would personally welcome any form of visit, based on an open, transparent, trusting, reliable and reasonable dialogue. But the specific plan is not decided by me,” she said.
“”I have communicated with the WHO experts twice,” she wrote, when asked if an investigation might help rule out a lab leak and end the speculation.
“I have personally and clearly expressed that I would welcome them to visit the WIV.”
WIV’s press office however than later claimed Prof Shi was only speaking in a “personal capacity” and her statement had “not been approved”, reported the BBC.
And one member of WHO’s team, a close pal of Prof Shi, Peter Daszak, has already ruled out the lab leak as a “conspiracy theory” and “pure baloney”.
However, his organisation the EcoHealth Alliance had been funneling US government cash to WIV as part of a grant – which was terminated in April.
WHO defended his place on the team when asked about a possible conflict of interest by The Sun Online – saying he was one of the “best experts” for the job.