WHO investigators visit Wuhan lab at heart of China Covid-19 conspiracy claims

The WHO team investigating the origins of the novel coronavirus arrives at the heavily guarded Wuhan Institute of Virology in China on Wednesday. Photograph: H├ęctor Retamal/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian


(TheGuardian) - A team of investigators from the World Health Organization has visited a virus research laboratory in Wuhan seeking clues to the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The team, led by WHO virus expert Peter Ben Embarek, arrived at the heavily guarded Wuhan Institute of Virology at about 9.30am on Wednesday.

“I am looking forward to a very productive day, meeting the key people here and asking all the important questions that need to be asked,” team member Peter Daszak, who is the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, said on arrival.

The institute has been at the centre of a number of conspiracy theories – some promoted by former US president Donald Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo – that claim a laboratory leak caused the city’s first coronavirus outbreak at the end of 2019.

Most scientists reject the hypothesis, but some speculate that a virus captured from the wild could have figured in experiments at the lab to test the risks of a human spillover and then escaped via an infected staff member.

Some scientists have called for China to release details of all coronavirus samples studied at the lab, to see which most closely resembles SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the respiratory disease.

The WHO team arrived in Wuhan last month and has visited a hospital where many of the first victims were treated, and the wet food market where the virus emerged in December 2019.

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