Science

Wuhan lab leak theory was ruled out as China intimidated scientists with 'harsh' crackdown


This comes as a chain of leaked emails exposed this week appeared to show that scientists had discussed the theory in the early days of the pandemic. But until now, the shocking claims were never brought to the public, reportedly due to soaring fears from researchers. Matt Ridley, a former Tory Peer and author of Viral: The search for the origin of COVID-19, told Express.co.uk that there was a motive to “quash” the theory to save China’s reputation.

He said: “There was a motive among the people on this exchange to quash this theory because of the damage it might do to science in general and science in China.

“That does seem to have been the reason why the scientists who thought a laboratory leak was plausible then sat down and wrote an article saying it wasn’t.

“That is frankly upsetting for those of us who are champions of science to find that scientists are putting political convenience above the truth.”

The email from Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, on February 2, 2020, said that “a likely explanation” was that Covid had rapidly evolved from a Sars-like virus inside human tissue in a low-security lab.

The email, to Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Francis Collins of the US National Institutes of Health, went on to say that such evolution may have “accidentally created a virus primed for rapid transmission between humans”.

But a leading scientist told Sir Jeremy that “further debate would do unnecessary harm to science in general and science in China in particular”.

Dr Collins, the former director of the US National Institutes of Health, warned it could damage “international harmony”.

And Mr Ridley, who recently gave evidence to the Science and Technology Committee on the Wuhan lab leak theory, said that there were a series of “harsh” actions taken by the Chinese state which also helped to crush proper investigation into Covid’s origins.

He told Express.co.uk: “Early in January, there were a series of harsh edicts issued by the Chinese Government to the health professionals and scientists in Wuhan and elsewhere in China forbidding in sharing any information at all with any form of media or social media about the pandemic.”

Mr Ridley said that this is why the coronavirus pandemic got “out of control”.

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He said: “That meant that the virus got out of control because health professionals did not get timely information about how much they were at risk.

“Local government officials did not get information about how much risk they were running.”

But Mr Ridley is not only worried about the Chinese clampdown on scientific openness.

He is also “concerned” about the transparency of science in the West too.

He told Express.co.uk: “There is a growing problem in science of an increasing tendency to put political reasons above full transparency and openness.

“It is a concern that I have. We have seen the growth of an industry of senior scientists motivated by getting a preferred story out there rather than what they really think.

“Science is about doubt, it is about investigating things we don’t know rather than what we do know.

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“Scientists should be open and transparent about things they don’t understand and not rule out explanations prematurely for things that are of importance.”

China has repeatedly rejected any suggestions of a lab leak.

The theory also remains as just one possible explanation for Covid’s origins.

Another theory is that the virus jumped to humans via animals.

A World Health Organisation report cites strong evidence showing that most coronaviruses that infect humans come from animals.

This includes the virus that caused the SARS epidemic in 2003.

Bats are thought to be the most likely culprits, as they host a virus that is genetically related to SARS-CoV-2.

There has also been speculation that the virus jumped humans to animals, but via an intermediate host.

Some scientists believe the most likely theory is that the virus first travelled through another animal, such as a mink or a pangolin.

They think it was then passed another animal, and later to humans.





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