The former leader of China’s Centre for Disease Control implies that an official investigation was carried out by Beijing into the Wuhan lab.
The former chief scientist of the Chinese government has stated that the possibility of Covid-19 leaking from a lab cannot be completely dismissed.
Professor George Gao, a leading virologist and immunologist who was at the helm of China’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) during the pandemic, emphasized the importance of considering all possibilities. “In science, no potential cause should be overlooked,” he stated.
Now serving as the vice president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Professor Gao played a significant role in China’s stringent pandemic response until the previous year. He also hinted that an official investigation into a potential leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) may have been conducted by Beijing.
He revealed during an interview with the BBC Radio 4 podcast Fever: The Hunt for Covid’s Origin, “The government orchestrated an investigation.” This investigation was not led by the CDC but by another segment of the Chinese government. According to him, “The lab underwent rigorous scrutiny by field experts.”
The WIV, one of China’s premier national labs, had been engaged in studying coronaviruses for several years before the first reported cases in Wuhan in late 2019. This prompted investigations into the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan and nearby hospitals.
Although he did not personally review the findings, Professor Gao stated that he “heard” the lab had been cleared of any wrongdoing. He concluded, “Based on their conclusion, the lab was adhering to all safety protocols. No malpractice was discovered.”
The Chinese Embassy in the UK has strongly responded, informing the BBC that the “lab leak” theory is a fabrication perpetuated by anti-China entities and that it lacks scientific support while being politically driven.
The speculation that the virus might have accidentally escaped from a lab regained momentum in February following a statement from the FBI’s director who suggested that the pandemic probably emanated from such a scenario, despite the lack of a unified stance among US intelligence agencies.
A section of the scientific community believes that the preponderance of evidence leans towards a natural origin – the virus being transmitted from animals to humans – as the most plausible explanation.
This development comes after Professor Anton van der Merwe, a molecular immunology expert from the University of Oxford, argued in March that the dismissal of the Covid-19 lab leak theory by some scientists could be due to their desire to proceed with potentially hazardous “gain-of-function” experiments aimed at enhancing the lethality of viruses.
Researchers in Wuhan were reportedly importing bat coronaviruses and had sought funds to escalate their infectiousness, an approach known as gain-of-function research.
The US Department of Energy determined the lab leak hypothesis as the most probable, a position that Downing Street was also open to entertaining. However, the World Health Organisation deemed it “extremely unlikely”.
In March, a representative for Rishi Sunak stated that there are “still unanswered questions regarding the origin and proliferation of Covid-19”.
“The UK is advocating for a comprehensive, transparent, and science-led review and maintains that all possibilities should be considered until such review is concluded,” he further commented.
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