“The wet market is one of the victims…”

The first victims of SARS-CoV-2 were quickly assessed in Wuhan by an “expert team of physicians, epidemiologists, virologists and government officials”. They reported their findings in The Lancet on 15 February 2020. A third of the patients had no direct exposure to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the wet market blamed for the outbreak.

This was true of three of the first four people infected. They included the first known patient, who contracted the virus around 1 December 2019 after no contact with the market whatsoever. “No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases.”

The first known victim outside China, a Chinese tourist in Thailand who had travelled from Wuhan, had been reported on 13 January 2020. That person also showed “no epidemiological linkage to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market”.

China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) had finished collecting samples from the market the previous day. In late January, PRC state media reported only 33 of the 585 samples tested positive for the virus. The headline spun this into “China detects large quantity of novel coronavirus at Wuhan seafood market”. “In the period since,” it was reported in May, “tissue samples from the market’s animals have revealed no trace of the virus.”

That SARS-CoV-2 had not emerged from the wet market was effectively established by February 2020. The PRC, media reports and scientific papers continued to push the idea that it had. Wuhan’s biological research facilities were now exposed as the only known presence of coronaviruses in the city.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market is one of 800 wet markets in Wuhan. It happened to be the one closest to the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (WHCDC). The WHCDC is known to have done extensive research with SARS-like viruses. It was just 300 metres from the market.

“The geographical distribution of the cases,” said Chinese experts through PRC state media in January, “indicated a close relationship between the epidemic and the seafood market”. With the market eliminated as the source, the geographical distribution of early cases remained. The obvious explanation of the WHCDC was dismissed, in both Chinese and Western media.

It took until late May for the PRC to officially acknowledge that the virus had not emerged from the wet market. “The wet market is one of the victims,” admitted the director of the CDC.

In January 2021, Anthony Fauci, the leading scientist in the United States response to SARS-CoV-2, was asked whether the virus might have emerged from the wet market. “Oh, absolutely,” he replied.

The following month, the World Health Organization (WHO) mission to find the origins of the virus also pinpointed the market, known for a year to have not been its source. Peter Daszak, a key scientist in the mission, placed “the origins of SARS-CoV-2” in “a market in Wuhan”.

As to how the virus, which from the beginning was near-perfect at infecting people and passing between them, first appeared in the middle of the city, which was itself in the middle of a province where related viruses are scarcely present, Daszak’s hypothesis was a “cold chain” of frozen food.

The cold chain must have stretched to Wuhan from where coronaviruses are densely located, in remote subtropical areas a thousand kilometres and more to the south. The frozen food would have safely contained the virus until thawed. When that happened, the effect would have been an immaculate appearance of the highly infectious virus in a place, all informed observers agree, it simply shouldn’t exist.

Proof of this hypothesis would be at least one other outbreak, prior to that in Wuhan, at the other end of the cold chain sometime in late 2019. No such outbreak is known. Contrary to Occam’s razor, the WHO hypothesis attempts to explain known facts by adding a circumstance that cannot be perceived. There is not a single victim of SARS-CoV-2 anywhere in the world before the first known person was infected in Wuhan.

Some suspect, however, that there has been a previous outbreak of covid-19, in Yunnan province in 2012. The handful of patients there, two weeks after they were infected by a novel coronavirus in a abandoned mineshaft in the mountains, presented with symptoms that matched those of SARS-CoV-2 victims. The oldest among them died.

The virus responsible, now nknown as RaTG13 in January 2020, was identified by the Chinese scientist Shi Zhengli. Samples containing the virus were carefully contained, in a solution at minus 80 degrees Celsius, and taken to Shi’s laboratory. Her lab was 2,000 kilometres away, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

That effectively is the cold chain hypothesis, only more plausible and with every stage on record. Proponents call it the lab origin hypothesis. The WIV has a close working relationship with the WHCDC, which is only 12 kilometres distant.

Regardless, the focus of the WHO investigation, according to Daszak, “could be shifted to South East Asia” and away from the Wuhan labs. Daszak runs EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based non-profit that has funded Shi’s virus research at the WIV with US taxpayer money. The conflict of interest goes unreported.

EcoHealth claims the mission of “protecting global health by preventing the outbreak of emerging diseases”. It has funded research related to “understanding the risk of bat coronavirus emergence”, in which the WIV specialises, with $12 million over the previous decade. Over a third of that money came, in 2018 and 2019, from the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency for “combating weapons of mass destruction”.

In 2019, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), via EcoHealth, awarded a grant to Shi’s research team at the WIV. The objective, as reported by the scientists Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson in July 2020, was “to evaluate by experiment the potential for pandemic pathogenicity of the novel bat coronaviruses they collected from the wild”.

The Director of NIAID is Anthony Fauci.

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Charles Hamlin

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Writer, sometime pilot, once soldier.

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