By Ross Clark. March 31. 2021
Should we believe the World Health Organisation report into the origins of the Sars-CoV-2 virus which, as expected, dismissed the possibility of a laboratory accident and promoted the theory that the virus was imported from overseas via frozen foods? The first thing to note is that the report does not claim to be independent – it is billed as the ‘Joint WHO-China study’. It deserves to be read as such: as the product of an undemocratic government that has every incentive to deflect responsibility for a pandemic which has, to date, registered 2.7 million deaths globally.
The report puts forward four hypotheses: that the disease was the result of direct zoonotic transmission from an animal, most likely a bat; that it arrived via an intermediate animal host; that it arrived via frozen seafood imported from abroad; that it occurred as a result of a laboratory accident. The second of these hypotheses is considered the most likely. The third is deemed to be ‘possible’ while the last is dismissed as ‘extremely unlikely’. Independent readers might well come to a different conclusion about the relative likeliness of the latter two.
The study’s reasoning behind labelling the frozen food hypothesis as ‘possible’ is as follows. It states: ‘The supply chains to Huanan market included cold-chain products and animal products from 20 countries, including those where samples have been reported as positive for Sars-CoV-2 before the end of 2019 and those where close relatives of Sars-CoV-2 are found.’ It prefers this explanation to the possibility that the virus arrived at the market via domestically-produced live food on this basis: ‘There is evidence that some domesticated wildlife the products of which were sold in the market are susceptible to Sars-CoV, but none of the animal products sampled in the market tested positive in this study. In the early phase of pandemic, due to lack of awareness of the potential role of cold chain in virus introduction and transmission, the cold-chain products were not tested.’
It further goes on to support its cases by stating: ‘Since the near-eliminationof Sars-CoV-2 in China, the country has experienced some outbreaks related to imported frozen products in 2020’, and then throwing in the hint: ‘There is some literature suggesting Sars-CoV-2 may have been circulating earlier as indicated by sewage testing in Spain and Italy.’
In other words, we tested animal products for the virus (some time after the first humans became infected) and found none. We didn’t test frozen foods, therefore frozen foods are more likely to be the cause. Moreover, there is faint evidence that the disease may have been in circulation in Europe before it was officially in circulation in China. Therefore, why not look to Europe for its origins? This rather flies in the face of the evidence. While there is some evidence of the virus being in circulation outside China in 2019, as this Cambridge University study explains, Americans who were found to be carrying an early strain of the virus had a history of residence in Wuhan. Moreover, the first serious cases of Covid-19 turned up in Wuhan. It was several weeks before cases of Covid-19 were picked up in the West.
The WHO-China study further argues that a laboratory accident is implausible because biosecurity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is so tight. The report does, however, contain an interesting nugget: ‘The Wuhan CDC laboratory moved on 2 December 2019 to a new location near the Huanan market. Such moves can be disruptive for the operations of any laboratory.’ In other words, a laboratory that was known to be working with Sars-type viruses, and to have isolated very similar viruses, happened to move one of its laboratories to a building close to a market where, a few weeks later, a disease caused by a novel Sars virus broke out.
You can make your own mind up, and of course we have no proof either way on this theory or on any of the other theories, but does the theory of a laboratory accident really deserve to be dismissed so lightly?