There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic, is artificial in origin, said experts from the World Health Organization as well as Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Claims the virus was created in a lab have been proposed without any evidence to back up the statements. This theory was recently reignited by the Trump administration, with Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both claiming they have seen evidence.
“There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” Pompeo told ABC’s This Week. He later added: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
However, he then backtracked on those claims when he was told that US intelligence had made a formal announcement claiming they had found no evidence to suggest as much. The World Health Organization has asked to see the extraordinary evidence of these extraordinary claims.
“From our perspective, this remains speculative,” Dr Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, told reporters in Geneva. “We have not received any data or specific evidence from the U.S. government relating to the purported origin of the virus.”
In an exclusive interview for National Geographic, Dr Anthony Fauci said the evidence suggests the virus is natural. Not only that but a paper published on March 17 in Nature Medicine traced the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and found it is likely the product of natural evolution.
It's true Chinese government officials did try to cover up evidence about the outbreak and silence scientists speaking out, but nothing so far suggests the origins of the virus began in a lab.
“By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” said study author Dr Kristian Andersen, an associate professor at Scripps Research, in a statement.
Some have suggested the administration's focus on this fallacy is another attempt at diverting attention away from US' slow pandemic response, following their decision to cut funding to the World Health Organization. Pompeo stated in the same radio interview: “We don’t know if it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We don’t know if it emanated from the wet market or yet some other place. We don’t know those answers.”
Many have pointed out that terms like "wet markets” have developed strong connotations during the pandemic to unhygienic places. This has led many to call for their ban without realizing that any market selling fresh produce and perishable products, such as farmers markets, are wet markets.
[H/T: The Guardian / Time / National Geographic]