The possibility that COVID-19 may have leaked from a Chinese lab should not be ruled out, a former Chinese government scientist has said.
Professor George Gao, former head of China Center for Disease Control (CDC), told BBC Radio 4’s Fever: The Hunt for podcast covid Origin: “You can always suspect something. It’s science. Don’t rule anything out.”
This contrasts with the position of the Chinese government, which rejects any suggestion that the virus could have come from a laboratory in Wuhan.
Wuhan – the city where the virus was first detected – is home to one of China’s top national laboratories known to have spent years studying coronaviruses.
Professor Gao has played a key role in the response to the pandemic and in efforts to trace its origin.
THE COVID-19 the lab leak theory resurfaced earlier this year in February when the The FBI Director said this is where he “most likely” originated.
But many scientists say the weight of evidence suggests that a natural origin – the virus spread from animals to humans – is the most likely scenario.
In a report seen by the Wall Street Journal, four other WE the agencies agreed with the FBI and said a lab leak was likely the result of natural transmission.
Two other agencies remain officially undecided, the Journal added.
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Professor Gao told the BBC that an official investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been carried out and that “this laboratory had been double-checked by the experts in the field”.
He added: “I think their conclusion is that they are following all protocols. They found (no) wrongdoing.”
What did China say about the “lab leak”?
“The so-called ‘lab leak’ is a lie created by anti-China forces. It is politically motivated and has no scientific basis,” the Chinese Embassy in the UK told the BBC.
Earlier this year, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said the involvement of the US intelligence community was proof enough of the “politicization of origin research”.
“By rehashing the lab leak theory, the US will not succeed in discrediting China, and instead it will only damage its own credibility,” Mao said.
“We urge the United States to respect science and facts…to stop turning original research into something political and intelligence, and to stop disrupting social solidarity and origin cooperation,” she added.
When did COVID-19 start to spread?
According to the UK government website, in December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, China.
In January 2020, it was announced that a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) had been identified from patient samples.
A month later, the virus was officially named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease caused by it was named COVID-19.
According to WHO, approximately 336.8 million years of life have been lost worldwide due to the pandemic.