As matters stand the balance of scientific opinion is that the Covid-19 pandemic probably started by a virus jumping from an animal host to humans in the Wuhan wet market or elsewhere. But we don’t know and may never know.
The Biden administration in the USA is launching an investigation, which includes considering the idea that the virus leaked from a lab. Of course the Biden administration will have political motives in including that idea, just as the Chinese authorities had their motives for promoting the theory that the virus came from outside China.
But it is not pursuing Donald Trump’s crazed conspiracy theory that China released the virus deliberately, and it has freely admitted that two US intelligence agencies lean towards the theory that the virus jumped from an animal species to humans, while only one “leans more toward” the lab theory.
This is hardly evidence to back up the claim by the Morning Star that this is all a conspiracy to “pretend that Covid-19 was a dastardly plot which reflects badly only on the country it struck first.”
The theory that the novel coronavirus originated in a lab (there are two near the first reported outbreaks: the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention) was at first tainted by association with Trump’s agitation. But recently credible evidence has emerged, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, that three unnamed staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) were hospitalised in November 2019 with symptoms that might have been coronavirus. Worthy of investigation, at least.
TheMorning Star does not agree: for them the matter is settled and any suggestion of a “lab leak” can only be a continuation of Trump’s anti-China campaign. An editorial (1 June) declares: “Scientists who were on [the] World Health Organisation mission like British zoologist Peter Daszak and Australian microbiologist Dominic Dwyer are in no doubt that the return of the ‘lab leak’ theory is political... there is no more evidence to support a lab leak than in February when the WHO team deemed it ‘extremely unlikely’.”
Leaving aside the fact that “extremely unlikely” is not quite the same as “impossible”, it is worth noting that the WHO mission to Wuhan was restricted to investigating the potential animal origins of coronavirus and did not include an audit of either Wuhan laboratory. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the investigation was “not extensive enough” and made it clear that the authorities did not provide all the information the WHO had hoped for, including full epidemiological data on 174 early cases. Another senior WHO official, Larry Gostin, went further, saying “it was more like a Disneyland tour.”
It is also worth noting that the zoologist Peter Daszak, whose opinion the Morning Star sets such store by, is also president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based organisation that has worked with, and funds, the WIV. Daszak has worked closely with the WIV’s leading researcher Shi Zhengi (the so-called “Bat Lady”), leading to what would appear to be a major conflict of interest.
It would seem that not only is the Morning Star acting as a crude propaganda mouthpiece for the Chinese ruling class. It is now opposed to scientific investigation into the origins of the pandemic that has killed millions of people and infected hundreds of millions.