Last year, Matt Ridley – along with “everybody sensible” – believed the idea that the pandemic leaked from a lab was “pseudoscientific nonsense almost on a par with UFOs and the Loch Ness monster”. Now, writing in the latest issue of the Spectator, he says that, “if we are to avoid another pandemic”, the theory – which is looking increasingly plausible – should be taken more seriously and be properly investigated.
The turning point, ironically, was the “press conference” on February 9th in Wuhan where a team of western scientists representing the World Health Organisation (WHO) sat meekly through a three-hour propaganda session at the end of a 12-day study tour. Strictly chaperoned throughout, the western scientists (approved by the Chinese Government) had mainly listened to presentations by their Chinese colleagues during their visit and done no research themselves. Yet the result was presented to the world as if it was the WHO’s conclusion.
The press conference was told that the lab leak theory was “extremely unlikely” and would not be investigated further, because the scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology said so during a three-hour visit by the study team. By contrast, the theory favoured by the Chinese Government – that the virus reached Wuhan on frozen meat from a rabbit or ferret-badger farm in southern China or southeast Asia – was said to be plausible, despite a total lack of evidence.
So risible was this little stage play that even WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had to backtrack a few days later: “All hypotheses remain open and require further study.” Dr Peter Ben Embarek, who led the study team, added wishfully: “I don’t think the press conference was a PR win for China.” The governments of Britain, America and 12 other countries issued a joint statement expressing “shared concerns” over the study…
The problem is partly that journalists confused two different theories last year: that the virus might have escaped from a laboratory openly doing research that was intended to prevent a pandemic, or that a secret project to create a nasty virus for use as a bioweapon had either gone wrong or succeeded all too well. The latter theory remains implausible; the former has never been so…
The lab that has been assiduously and energetically collecting coronaviruses from horseshoe bats for more than a decade, gathering a far larger collection of samples and genetic sequences than any other lab anywhere in the world, just happens to be in Wuhan, as part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Run by Dr Shi Zhengli, it boasted in 2019 of having at least 100 different Sars-like viruses in its database.
We cannot check these samples because the database went offline on September 12th, 2019, just before the pandemic began, and Dr Shi persistently refuses to reopen it, arguing that it’s been subject to “hacking attempts”. Right… in September 2019? And there’s no other way to show the data? Dr Daszak says he knows what is in the database and that it is of no relevance, which is why he has not asked his friend Dr Shi to share it. Right. When I raised this lack of transparency with a senior British scientist, he said: ‘They are communists, what do you expect?’ It is not clear why that should be reassuring.
Matt highlights the letter recently published in the academic journal Science, in which 18 scientists from around the world criticise the WHO over its failure to properly investigate the lab leak theory, and say: “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover [from animals to humans] both remain viable.”
His article is worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Conservative MP Bob Seely has told MailOnline that Facebook’s censoring of posts debating whether Covid could be man-made is “contemptible”.
I think it is absolutely contemptible and it shows their commitment to democracy is an incredibly thin veneer over their commercial interests. So many big tech firms are showing their true and frankly really ugly colours…
This is not a conspiracy theory. There is a genuine debate about where the Wuhan virus came from.
For Facebook to be shutting that conversation down is absolutely appalling.
Also worth reading in full.