Wuhan lab leak now the 'most likely' cause of Covid pandemic and the truth WILL come out, experts tell MPs

A LAB leak from Wuhan is now the "more likely" cause of the Covid pandemic, experts have told British MPs.

Dr Alina Chan, a genetic engineering expert, said she was "very confident" the truth will eventually come out about the origins of the deadly bug.

The molecular biologist at MIT and Harvard believes a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is "more likely than not" after two unsuccessful years of searching for an animal host.

The WIV – a high security facility specalising in coronaviruses – has been in the eye of the storm as questions rage over whether Covid could have escaped from its lab.

Both China and the lab have furiously denied any allegations, but evidence of a lab leak has been piling up over the last year as scientists, researchers and governments hunt for answers.

Dr Chan told the Science and Technology Select Committee: "I think the lab origin is more likely than a natural origin at this point.

"We all agree there was a critical event at the wet market that was a superspreader event – caused by humans. But there is no evidence pointing to a natural animal origin of the virus at that market."

And Dr Chan said she was "very confident" the truth about Covid will eventually emerge in years to come – when it's safe for whistleblowers to step forward.

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"We've seen from previous cover-ups that it just takes time, because right now it’s not safe for people who know about the origin of the pandemic to come forward," she said.

"It might be five years from now, it might be 50 years from now, but we live in an era where there is so much data being collected and stored that it will eventually come out." 

Matt Ridley, who co-authored Viral on the origins of the pandemic with Dr Chan,also said a lab leak was now the most likely origin – and urged investigators to find out in order to prevent the next pandemic.

The science writer told MPs: "I also think it’s more likely than not because we have to face the fact after two months we knew the origins of SARS through markets.

"After a couple of months we knew MERS was though through camels. In this case, after two years, we still haven't found a single infected animal that could be the progenitor of this pandemic, and that’s incredibly surprising."

Some scientists have also argued Covid was genetically modified by humans – with one claiming it was "ready made" to infect humans when the virus first emerged in Wuhan.

Dr Chan told MPs: “We have heard from many top virologists that a genetically engineered origin of this virus is reasonable – so it's worth investigating – and that includes virologists who made genetic modifications to the first SARS virus. 

“We know now this virus has a very unique feature, called the furin cleavage site, that makes it the pandemic pathogen it is. So without this feature there is no way this virus would be causing this pandemic.

“A proposal was leaked showing that EcoHealth and the Wuhan Institute of Virology were developing a pipeline for inserting novel furin cleavage sites – these genetic modifications.

"So, you fund these scientists who said in early 2018 ‘I’m going to put horns on horses’ and at the end of 2019 a unicorn turns up in Wuhan city.

"It's a striking coincidence that needs to be investigated."


Mr Ridley added: "We need to find out so we can prevent the next pandemic.

"We need to know whether we should be tightening up work in laboratories or whether we should be tightening up regulations related to wildlife markets.

"At the moment we are really not doing either.

“We also need to know to deter bad actors who are watching this episode and thinking that unleashing a pandemic is something they could get away with. 

“We know now that experiments were being done at Biosecurity Level 2 in Wuhan that resulted in 10,000 times increases in infectivity of viruses and three or four times their lethality.

"The important thing is to stop doing these experiments that are risky.”

Meanwhile, Richard Horton, The Lancet editor-in-chief, said the lab leak was "a hypothesis that should be taken seriously and needs to be further investigated".

But he told MPs he agreed with the previous conclusions from the World Health Organisation that it was "extremely unlikely".

Dr Chan and Mr Ridley said they both believed the lab leak was an accident – rather than deliberate.

The experts had already warned that terrorists who are considering using bioweapons will have noted how quickly China was able to dismiss the idea of a lab leak – and avoid scrutiny.

It means militants will now know how easily they can "get away" with the release of a cataclysmic bioweapon, knowing the source of the attack will likely never be found.

China has repeatedly stated it is not responsible for the global pandemic and dismissed accusations from those who say the virus was manipulated by humans.

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