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SCIENTISTS who took part in February’s World Health Organisation (WHO) mission to Wuhan hit back at the US’s renewal of “lab leak” conspiracy theories over the long weekend.
They spoke out after British spies backed the US claims in comments given to the Sunday Times.
Widely ridiculed when raised by the Donald Trump administration – with a leaked briefing from German intelligence noting it was a “calculated attempt to distract” from the US’s own failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic – the suggestion that Covid-19 leaked from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology has now been resurrected by US President Joe Biden.
An international team of experts who visited China earlier this year concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” the virus could have escaped from a laboratory, with team chair Peter Ben Embarek pointing out that “there had been no publication or research of this virus or one close to this virus, anywhere in the world.” It found that transmission from bats to humans was the most likely origin.
But Mr Biden dramatically revived the lab leak theory last week, ordering US intelligence to investigate it and report back to him, and for Washington to work with “like-minded partners” to establish its accuracy. The Sunday Times has now reported that British intelligence also views a lab origin as “feasible.”
Dominic Dwyer, an Australian member of the original WHO team, told ABC News at the weekend that “there was no evidence to back up the lab escape theory.”
Responding to US claims that China did not fully co-operate with the WHO probe, he added that the questions asked and evidence seen by the team “are really what I would expect if I was doing the same investigation in Australia or New Zealand.”
British team member Peter Daszak, who is based in New York, said that the new accusations were “political, not scientific” and told the Daily Telegraph that China had “fallen victim to conspiracy theories.”
Mr Daszak complained last August that the United States was trying to politicise the search for the virus’s origin, cutting funding for his EcoHealth Alliance which has conducted research in China for 15 years, collecting faeces and other samples from bats and blood samples from people at risk of infection from bat-origin viruses.
The US then tried to tie renewed funding to “absurd” requirements such as EcoHealth getting US federal officials access to inspect Chinese scientific research facilities.
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