Discussions in the U.S. government have become centered on two diplomatic cables that had warned in 2018 about unsafe practices in the Wuhan laboratory in China where experiments were being conducted on coronaviruses and bats. The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was the first Chinese laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety, (known as BSL-4), in 2015.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing began sending U.S. science diplomats to the (WIV) two years ago, led by Jamison Fouss, the consul general in Wuhan, and Rick Switzer, the embassy’s counselor of environment, science, technology, and health.
The news release of these visits—the last one being March 27, 2018—was just erased last week from the WIV website but remains in the internet archives.
After the official visits to the Wuhan lab, Washington was twice briefed that the safety practices in the lab, where studies were being done on coronaviruses with bats, were inadequate.
Shi Zhengli, the head of the research project had published many studies relating to bat coronaviruses, and his team had just published research that linked horseshoe bats they had collected from a cave in Yunnan Province to the SARS coronavirus in 2003.
The two cables, labeled as Sensitive but Unclassified, warned of the possibility of a pandemic being spread by human-to-human transmission of a new SARS-like virus, due to the work going on with bats.
“The cable was a warning shot,” one U.S. official said, reports the The Washington Post. “They were begging people to pay attention to what was going on.”
The first cable was obtained by The Washington Post, it had been drafted by two U.S. Embassy officials who had met with WIV scientists.
“During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,” read the cable.
“Most importantly,” the cable states, “The researchers also showed that various SARS-like coronaviruses can interact with ACE2, the human receptor identified for SARS-coronavirus. This finding strongly suggests that SARS-like coronaviruses from bats can be transmitted to humans to cause SARS-like diseases. From a public health perspective, this makes the continued surveillance of SARS-like coronaviruses in bats and study of the animal-human interface critical to future emerging coronavirus outbreak prediction and prevention.”
Although there is no evidence pointing to the virus being an engineered one, most scientists seem to agree it originated from animals.
Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley points out the Wuhan lab has continued testing bat coronaviruses in animals.
As many have pointed out, there is no evidence that the virus now plaguing the world was engineered; scientists largely agree it came from animals. But that is not the same as saying it didn’t come from the lab, which spent years testing bat coronaviruses in animals, said Xiao.
“The cable tells us that there have long been concerns about the possibility of the threat to public health that came from this lab’s research if it was not being adequately conducted and protected,” he said.
China has been working to restrict any access to scientific research connected to the CCP Virus. It now has a total lockdown on all information regarding the origin of the virus. Nothing is to be published in China by research institutions without the Communist Party vetoing it.
The Washington Post reported that one senior official said, “The idea that it was just a totally natural occurrence is circumstantial. The evidence it leaked from the lab is circumstantial. Right now, the ledger on the side of it leaking from the lab is packed with bullet points and there’s almost nothing on the other side.”
Scientific knowledge is vital to understand the nature of the virus and will enable scientists to prepare for any future pandemic, the Communist Party has not been transparent to the rest of the world, making it hard for any real progress to be made.
We don’t know whether the novel coronavirus originated in the Wuhan lab, but the cable pointed to the danger there and increases the impetus to find out, said research scientist Xiao Qiang.
“I don’t think it’s a conspiracy theory. I think it’s a legitimate question that needs to be investigated and answered,” he said. “To understand exactly how this originated is critical knowledge for preventing this from happening in the future.”