COVID-19: Natural, a lab leak, or viral warfare?


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Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan as members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus make a visit to the institute in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on February 3, 2021. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

   The world may soon learn whether or not COVID-19 was of natural occurrence, an accidental leak from a biological laboratory located in the city of Wuhan, People’s Republic of China, or whether more chillingly – a viral weapon engineered by our fellow man. No matter what information has or will come out, the fact that Wuhan is the origin of the virus is no longer debated.

   Within days, an intelligence report on the likely source of the virus will be issued. Already, the PRC disputes and reprimands the United States investigation into the origin of COVID-19, as “political manipulation and blame shifting.” However, scrutiny of the “lab-leaked” theory has quickly become a more serious possibility. Why now? Up until recently, the World Health Organization investigation into the source of the outbreak found that the novel coronavirus having leaked and spread from a lab during its development is “extremely unlikely.” If the first cases of COVID were traced by Chinese scientists to a seafood market in Wuhan, the source of the virus would be not from animals, but spread from humans to animals, despite not being detected until late 2019.

   Despite the unrelenting objections of the Chinese government, even citizens of Wuhan want answers in their city pushed into silence about the virus, about medical care to family members, and about the source of a disease that isolated the people of Wuhan and around the world. Reportedly, evidence is mounting that the virus did not come from human contact with an infected animal, but rather from an accidental leak from the secretive Wuhan Institute for Virology laboratory.

   As a result of the media reports and shortly after assuming office, President Biden asked for an intelligence investigation as to the source of the coronavirus: then, received the first report, and asked for a follow-up. President Biden later confirmed the two, most-likely or possible, presumed sources: human contact with animals or a leak from the Wuhan lab. Mr. Biden has promised to release the information, but not before asking intelligence agencies and scientists to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyse information…[for] a more definitive conclusion.” Mr. Biden may have tipped his hand, saying “unless there’s something I’m unaware of,” that neither scenario can be ascertained as the actual source is more plausible than the other.

   Both scenarios explaining the origin of the virus have support. The theory of the virus’s passage from animal species to humans, called the zoonotic origin, is supported by coronaviruses having crossed this barrier in an identical manner many times before. The theory that an outbreak occurred in the same city in which the lab known world-wide for experimentation of coronaviruses infecting bats resides, becomes difficult to accept as mere coincidence.

   When other heads of state joined President Biden in further investigating the source of COVID-19, Chinese officials became indignant, with the Foreign Ministry Spokesman chastising the U.S. of not caring “about facts or truth, and has zero interest in science-based study of [the Covid’s] origins.” PRC Spokesman Zhao Lijian admonished the U.S. for “political manipulation and blame-shifting,” and for “being disrespectful to science, irresponsible to people’s lives, and counter-productive to concerted efforts to fight the virus.” Although not directing his accusations directly at President Biden, he did reference “dark history” of the U.S. misinformation efforts as “smear campaigns.”

   Former U.S. President Donald Trump referred to the novel coronavirus as the “kung-flu,” and Peter Navarro, former U.S. Trade Advisor under the Trump Administration, called the virus “a product of the Chinese Communist Party,” Accusing the Chinese government of intentionally releasing the virus onto the public. This, combined with the PRC’s reticent response and lack of transparency when the WHO went to China to investigate the possible origin, stalled scientists. If indeed the virus was transmitted from a particular animal, that host animal has not been found.

   According to Shane Harris of The Washington Post, interviewed Friday’s, May 28, showing of MSNBC’s Ari Melber, finding the host animal often takes years, even a decade, as with the ebola virus, the host animal has never been found.

   Mr. Harris clarified that viruses have escaped before from “even the best, most-efficiently run laboratories, including some in the United States.” The theory that the Chinese Communist Party intentionally released the virus is not supported by the evidence as of the writing of this article. What is known is that two workers in the Wuhan Institute of Virology were infected in November of 2019, and could have infected family members at home.

   Why has the origin of COVID-19 become news a year and a half after the presumably first outbreak in Wuhan? No further evidence supports either origin source – only the politics have changed. Considering the PRC’s adamant refusal of the lab-leak theory, when coupled with the disinformation spread by former U.S. President Trump, either scenario of origin becomes a plausible possibility. However, if the coronavirus origin stems from a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the leading lab for the study of coronaviruses in bats, the Chinese government may have violated the International 1972 Biological Weapons (BWC) ban, enacted after World War I, for the development of offensive biological warfare, regardless of its production, or how it was acquired, or whether it has been transferred or stockpiled, or even used.

   Whether the Chinese government feels responsible or fears being held legally and financially liable for COVID-19, for the PRC to intentionally release the virus on its own people seems implausible. Chinese epidemiologists understand that an epidemic can become a pandemic quickly, but the Chinese government’s slow response and withholding of the information early on, seems complicit until its veil of persistent secrecy and manipulation is considered.

   The world may never know the origin of the virus, but President Biden’s 90-day investigation may eliminate possible origin scenarios and may help prevent such viruses from becoming a pandemic that killed over 3-½ million people worldwide, and over 593,000 Americans. As fictionalized in Dan Brown’s novel Inferno, even the virus intentionally unleashed can affect a third of the world’s population or more. A pandemic has not been a question of “if,” but rather “when.” When the next virus-pandemic will strike, no one will know.