WHO Admits Laboratory Most Plausible Origin of Pandemic

A World Health Organization mission in search of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 finally entered Wuhan in January 2021. It was an entire year since the highly infectious and transmissible virus had first appeared in the city. The virus had emerged seemingly out of nowhere, but undeniably in close proximity to two laboratories which study similar viruses.

Tasked with belatedly investigating how the virus had managed its immaculate conception in the middle of Wuhan, the WHO team were initially denied entry even into China. The People’s Republic of China soon said this was a mistake. Details of the visit were simply still being arranged.

The implication of an event being stage managed turned out to be accurate. The WHO team were willing actors in what followed. The mission leader, Peter Embarek, even praised the PRC for its cooperation in a farce it had clearly arranged. His “team of Chinese experts and international experts” concluded that a laboratory origin of the pandemic was “extremely unlikely”.

The conclusion was reached entirely by means of “long meetings,” not any kind of actual investigation. Embarek said the WHO team lacked the “tools and capabilities” and even the “mandate” to do anything like uncover hard facts. Presumably he meant a mandate from the PRC and not the people of the world, in whose name the WHO supposedly operates.

Just getting the lab origin hypothesis on the agenda with the PRC was impressive, according to Embarek, as if evidenced-based accusation had to be approved by the accused. “For the past year it was mission impossible to even discuss”. It was “a big achievement,” he said, that “the topic is on the table”. It was clearly placed there in order to be officially brushed off.

Wuhan scientists were simply taken at their word that SARS-CoV-2 had not escaped from a laboratory. That was then laundered into objective fact by the WHO. It continues the organisation’s dubious record of going along with whatever the PRC says, regardless of contrary evidence.

The WHO is undeniably in the political grip of China. The Director-General, Tedros Adhanom owes his position to the PRC after “a really nasty election”. Adhanom has a record of covering-up epidemics while health minister in his own country of Ethiopia. He has been accused of being more an expert in political manoeuvring than public health.

As concerning is the fact that British zoologist Peter Daszak was among the WHO team of “independent investigators”. Daszak runs the New York-based non-profit EcoHealth Alliance, which spends American taxpayer dollars on virus research in Wuhan. The money has been used to find “risky” bat viruses, bring them to the Wuhan labs and make them more dangerous to humans.

A laboratory origin of SARS-CoV-2 will implicate Daszak. Yet rather than being the subject of investigation into the likelihood of that origin, he has helped lead it instead. He is the loudest voice to an alternative origin hypothesis preferred by the WHO and, not incidentally, the PRC.

Embarek said the WHO was “not closing the door” on the lab origin hypothesis; it is just “not something we’re going to pursue”. He did not explain the philosophical difference.

“If others want to pursue that hypothesis,” he said, it will require “a United Nations–wide approach in consultation with member states, if that was something that the international community would want to move forward with.” Nations which have proposed doing so, such as Australia, have been outrageously bullied (as “chewing gum stuck on the sole of our shoe”) and economically harmed by the PRC.

The call for a thorough investigation from Australia has however now been officially joined by the United States, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom. The world is not so easily bullied.

Embarek also failed to explain the other confusing position taken by his mission. The hypothesis the WHO put forward as the likely origin of SARS-CoV-2 was a less plausible version of the lab origin hypothesis itself.

The global pandemic that has so far killed nearly 3 million people was caused by the bat coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It first appeared in a single district in the middle of Wuhan, a megacity in central China. The first people it infected seemed to share a connection to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, but it was quickly found that this “wet market” was not the source of the virus.

The first medical report by Chinese doctors on that original cohort of Wuhan patients was published in The Lancet in late-January 2020. The initial victims of the virus, both in the city and outside China, had “no epidemiological linkage to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market”.

The PRC has since refused to hand over raw data on these first patients. In May 2020, it however conceded the market was “one of the victims” of the virus, a “super-spreader,” but not the origin of the pandemic. “The virus came into that marketplace before it came out of that marketplace,” in the words of Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was one of 800 wet markets in Wuhan. It happened to be the one closest to the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control (WHCDC), only 300 metres away. The WHCDC has done extensive research with SARS-like viruses, often working with the live bats in which they originate. It collaborates with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), another biological research facility just 12 kilometres distant.

The WIV, a $44 million “status symbol in biology,” is the world’s leading centre of research into SARS-like viruses. China’s leading expert on such viruses is the scientist Shi Zhengli, who runs a laboratory at the institute.

For fifteen years, Shi has hunted for SARS-related bat coronaviruses across the length and breadth of China. She brought all those she discovered to the WIV. Samples of bat blood, urine, saliva and faeces, as well as the live animals themselves, have been deliberately transported into the centre of Wuhan.

Shi’s hunt was funded by the American taxpayer via Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance. The money came from the US$200 million USAID “PREDICT” program. “We’ve now found over a hundred new SARS-related coronaviruses,” Daszak stated proudly in 2019. “Some of them get into human cells in the lab.”

“The lab” was the WIV, although there is also another in America. One of the viruses is known as RaTG13. Its genomic sequence is at least a 96 percent match to SARS-CoV-2.

The four percent difference between RaTG13 and SARS-CoV-2 has been claimed to represent at least twenty years of evolution in the wild, although Shi herself shies away from such calculations. It is however possible to dramatically accelerate the evolution of viruses in the lab, as done recently by Israeli scientists with a mutant strain of SARS-CoV-2.

Shi and Daszak have not merely collected potentially dangerous viruses. They have also fully realised that potential by manipulating the viruses in the laboratory. One aspect of this “gain-of-function” research is “serial passaging”. A natural virus, or pieced together parts of different ones, are repeatedly sent through animal cells, hothousing their evolution.

The difference between RaTG13 and SARS-CoV-2 is primarily in the spike protein. This is the biological mechanism that makes the latter virus so infectious to people. “Spike protein drives a lot of what happens with the coronavirus zoonotic risk,” as Daszak noted in 2019.

“You can manipulate them in the lab pretty easily,” he enthused. “You can build the protein — and we work with Ralph Baric at UNC to do this — insert it into backbone of another virus, and do some work in the lab.”

Baric, “probably the foremost coronavirus biologist in the United States and one of the best in the world,” is Shi’s American counterpart and colleague. His lab at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, as Daszak admitted, cooperates with hers at the WIV. The two research groups are something of an international tribe.

Work at the Baric laboratory is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Via EcoHealth, NIAID has awarded many research grants to Shi’s lab at the WIV. One in 2019 had the objective, as discovered by the scientists Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson in July 2020, “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, leading scientist behind the US response to SARS-CoV-2. In January 2021, a year after it was known that SARS-CoV-2 did not emerge from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, Fauci was asked whether the wet market was its possible origin. He replied, “Oh, absolutely”.

USAID and NIAID are only two of the US government agencies that have flooded money into virus research at the WIV through EcoHealth. Others include the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Around ninety percent of the EcoHealth’s funding comes from the American taxpayer. It is all spent in the name of “protecting global health by preventing the outbreak of emerging diseases”.

EcoHealth has funded research related to “understanding the risk of bat coronavirus emergence” with $12 million in the last ten years. Over a third of that money came, in 2018 and 2019, from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency for “combating weapons of mass destruction”.

Yet in January 2021, Daszak was a key scientist in the belated WHO mission to discover the source of the pandemic virus. The conflict of interest, which should make him the subject of investigation, was not even reported. Daszak placed “the origins of SARS-CoV-2” firmly in the “market in Wuhan”.

“There is a clear indication of supply chains,” he said without evidence, “that take you from places where SARS-CoV-2 relatives are, into the market.” The supply chain running the same route into Wuhan’s laboratories is established fact, not vaguely indicated, and it deliberately carried SARS-like viruses.

Daszak funded that supply chain, gaining considerable monetary and professional reward in doing so. The reward flowed to him because he claims his work can prevent a disastrous global pandemic.

Since 2016, Daszak has been pushing the Global Virome Project (GVP), of which he is Treasurer and Secretary. It is EcoHealth writ large. His pitch is for a staggering $3·4 billion “to start to discover the total diversity of risky viruses on the planet”. The justification is that this will “begin the end of the pandemic era”.

Daszak wants “countries to get behind it, governments to get behind it, the private sector to get behind it”. The world can’t afford not to, according to him. “Over the next 50 years,” he claimed in 2017, outbreaks of pandemic viruses would mean “three-and-a-half trillion dollars of cost”. The world’s “return on investment” on his GVP “would be a hundred to one,” he claimed.

If SARS-CoV-2 emerged from a laboratory, the $16 trillion the virus has cost the world in a single year makes his argument ridiculous. If he is directly connected to the virus, his pitch to “end the pandemic era” for a hefty payday will come to nothing. His work will be proven far more dangerous than the threat he claims it can eliminate.

The basic facts are that SARS-CoV-2 emerged suddenly in a highly improbable place and form and left no natural trace of how it did so. Wuhan’s biological research facilities and their work explain the suddenness, resolve the improbabilities and contain the only known trace. Rather than a wet market or a wilderness, Patient Zero likely walked out of a Wuhan laboratory.

Shi’s own work definitively established that SARS-related viruses are scarcely present in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital. Hubei lacks the dense populations of bats and viruses that she has found necessary to produce a virus like SARS-CoV-2.

The nearest bats to Wuhan are few and in the mountains 300 kilometres away, across the vast low-lying Jianghan Plain. The bat species in which SARS-CoV-2 originates, the Intermediate Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus affinis), is not even present in Hubei according to official Chinese surveys.

The species roost in mountain caves not cities (Wuhan is the size of Greater London), live at elevations above 600 metres (Wuhan is at sea level) and enter hibernation around September (SARS-CoV-2 appeared in Wuhan sometime around November 2019).

“I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan,” Shi has even frankly admitted. The coincidence of the outbreak happening in close proximity to the Wuhan labs was so improbable, she effectively conceded, that she initially “wondered if [the municipal health authorities] got it wrong”.

That the outbreak happened “in central China” at all shocked Shi. “Her studies had shown that the southern, subtropical areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan have the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping to humans from animals — particularly bats”.

That is because the bats and the viruses are concentrated in those provinces, a thousand kilometres and more from Wuhan. Shi has even used Wuhan’s inhabitants as a scientific control in testing SARS-like antibody levels, because they “have a much lower likelihood of contact with bats”.

SARS-CoV-2 is a “zoonotic” virus — one that jumps from animal to human. Such viruses are initially adapted to their former host species and consequently aren’t optimised to infect or transmit between people. The “bird flu” viruses H7N9 and H5N1 and the bat viruses MERS and Hendra had no capacity for human-to-human transmission.

The latter viruses also needed to be “amplified” in an intermediate host species before they could infect people at all. The same is true of the SARS virus. No such host has been found for SARS-CoV-2.

In 2015, the Baric lab demonstrated that at least one of the coronaviruses discovered by Shi might infect people directly. Researchers however emphasised that, even “if the SARS-like virus did jump, it is still unclear whether it could spread from human to human.”

The SARS virus itself had low human-to-human transmissibility and evolved rapidly after it first jumped to people. From the beginning, SARS-CoV-2 was highly infectious to humans, highly transmissible between them, and highly stable in form.

A scientific analysis by the microbiologist Alina Chan has compared SARS and SARS-CoV-2. The latter resembles the former after it had spent many months evolving in humans. “We’re missing the early phase,” Chan says of the virus’s evolution.

If SARS-CoV-2 evolved naturally outside Wuhan, then its first victims would have been elsewhere. There is no sign of that. The virus must then have evolved in human cells prior to infecting people in the city. The logic loops back, circling Wuhan. There simply are no victims before the virus first appeared there.

Any hypothesis on the origin of the virus must account for all of these facts. Most of all, it must account for how the virus, which 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 on how SARS-CoV-2 appeared in the middle of Wuhan is “cold chain” of frozen food. The same idea has been “promoted aggressively by Chinese media,” which is another way of saying by the PRC.

The cold chain must have stretched to Wuhan from where coronaviruses are densely located, in those 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 where it 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, on 1 December 2019.

Although some suspect that there has been a previous outbreak of covid-19, in Yunnan province in 2012. Six men had fell ill while working to clear bat guano from an abandoned mineshaft in the mountains of Mojiang County.

Each man presented with symptoms of severe pneumonia two weeks after going into the mine. The period between first exposure and sickness is identical to SARS-CoV-2 victims. Aside from extreme difficulty in breathing, the men’s symptoms included a dry cough and sore limbs, headaches and high fever. “Anyone presenting with them today would immediately be assumed to have covid-19.”

Three of the men died. The likelihood of death was greater for the oldest victims and also proportional to time spent in the mine. This is again similar to victims of SARS-CoV-2, with age and viral load being factors in mortality.

The novel coronavirus almost certainly responsible, RaTG13, was identified by Shi. Samples containing the virus were carefully contained, in a solution at minus 80 degrees Celsius, and taken to Shi’s laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), 2,000 kilometres away.

That effectively is the cold chain hypothesis, only every stage is factual and on record. Proponents call it the lab origin hypothesis. Yet while the lab origin hypothesis was dismissed by the WHO mission, it considers the cold chain a hot lead.

It will lead nowhere, except to more funding for virus hunters like Shi and Daszak. Regardless, the focus of investigation, Daszak told the world, “could be shifted to South East Asia” and away from the Wuhan labs.

On 3 February 2020, Shi revealed the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was 96 percent identical to one of the viruses she had discovered named RaTG13. A South Korean lab soon found a section of SARS-CoV-2 matched perfectly with BtCoV/4991, a published short sequence of another bat coronavirus discovered by Shi. The same section of RaTG13 was also identical.

This created confusion for five months. In July 2020, Shi finally confessed the BtCoV/4991 was a section of RaTG13. The nomenclature is just one of several attempts by Shi to mislead on the provenance of that virus.

Both Shi and Daszak have claimed RaTG13 lay forgotten in the WIV until January 2020, when it was supposedly sequenced purely by chance. “We thought it’s interesting,” Daszak said of its discovery in 2013, “but not high-risk. We didn’t do anything about it and put it in the freezer.”

In fact, RaTG13 is exactly the sort of SARS-like virus that Shi and Daszak had spent a decade searching for across China. One scientist, biotech entrepreneur Yuri Deigin, has described it as their “Holy Grail”. It represented the rare first stage of a potentially dangerous pandemic virus. All it lacked was transmissibility between humans and it would have become another SARS.

If Shi and Daszak really did dismiss the virus as nothing special, it is an admission of incompetence in the task for which they have received millions in funding. Their claims have however been proven untrue. The database at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shows RaTG13 was repeatedly accessed by researchers at the WIV in 2017 and 2018.

Deigin has also shown there are suggestions of a laboratory origin in SARS-CoV-2. Of particular note is the freak feature of a furin site, which provides the pathogenicity of the virus. Furin sites are rare in the beta lineage of coronaviruses to which SARS-CoV-2 belongs. There appears to be a natural selective pressure against them. None have been found in bat coronaviruses in the wild.

“It’s in there by an insertion,” claims Deigin. The furin site of SARS-CoV-2 gives every sign of being marked with a common technique of lab manipulation. “It’s two exact same codons,” he says of the markers, “very rare codons, in sequence.” The codons allow scientists to easily check if their inserted code remains intact. “If it was human made, it would all make total sense.”

Deigin’s expert work refutes “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” a scientific paper published in the first moments of the pandemic by Nature, the world’s leading professional science journal. In March 2020, the paper incisively stated that “SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus”. This was widely reported as definitive.

The paper’s authors however refuted themselves. They didn’t support their conclusions in plain English, let alone scientifically. They soon relented on their introductory claim, saying it was only “improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation”. Eventually they contradicted themselves entirely and admitted “it is possible” that SARS-CoV-2 was evolved in a laboratory — by exactly the techniques practised at the WIV.

The WIV virus databases were even altered and scrubbed on the night of 30 December 2019. It happened within hours of Shi being informed a novel coronavirus had caused a SARS-like outbreak in Wuhan. Shi herself admits to “frantically” going through those databases that night. The DRASTIC group of scientists has recently reported on this event in detail.

Daszak’s cold chain is the lab origin hypothesis — just without the laboratories or the supporting evidence. That the former is considered plausible while the latter is written off as “extremely unlikely” is a nonsense. It only demonstrates contempt for the people of the world.

The effrontery of Daszak, like that of the PRC, appears boundless. He has been described as “Patient Zero for misinformation” about the pandemic. He reached a judgement dismissing the lab origin hypothesis a year before he even got to China to conduct the “investigation” into its possibility. A reporter asked whether this inversion of jurisprudence might not undermine his credibility. “No,” Daszak replied emphatically.

It is hard to prove that SARS-CoV-2 entered the world because of a laboratory accident. It is however easy to show that the world has been misled on the probability of that origin, and by whom. That only gives it further credence.

THE SHADOW OF PATIENT ZERO

Writer, sometime pilot, once soldier.

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Charles Hamlin

Charles Hamlin

Writer, sometime pilot, once soldier.

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