The decade's most triggering comedy
A top scientist leading the World Health Organization’s investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic believes that it is “probable” that the pandemic originated in a Chinese lab and said that China pressured the WHO team to not look into the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
“Speaking to Danish documentarians, Peter Ben Embarek said Chinese researchers on the team had pushed back against linking the origins of the pandemic to a research laboratory in Wuhan in a report about the investigation,” The Washington Post reported. “In further comments during the interview that were not included in the documentary but were incorporated in an account by the Danish channel TV2 on its website, Ben Embarek suggested that there could have been ‘human error’ but that the Chinese political system does not allow authorities to acknowledge that.”
“It probably means there’s a human error behind such an event, and they’re not very happy to admit that,” Ben Embarek was quoted as saying. “The whole system focuses a lot on being infallible, and everything must be perfect. Somebody could also wish to hide something. Who knows?”
Ben Embarek said in the documentary that China pressed the team to not look into the lab and only allowed the team to include in its initial report that it was “very unlikely” that the coronavirus escaped from the WIV after demanding that the team “didn’t recommend any specific studies to further that hypothesis.”
Ben Embarek said that China demanded that the report state that the lab leak hypothesis was “extremely unlikely.” Ben Embarek told The Washington Post, which broke the story, that his remarks were “a wrong translation from a Danish article” and he refused to comment any further.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
In comments broadcast by Denmark’s state-owned TV 2 and confirmed to The Wall Street Journal, Peter Ben Embarek, a food-safety specialist, said investigators should seek more information about the lab, a research facility run by the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Ben Embarek’s remarks mark the biggest departure by a member of the WHO’s team from their view, expressed at a news conference in February, that a laboratory incident was too unlikely to merit further studies.
“It’s interesting that the lab relocated on the 2nd of December 2019: That’s the period where it all started,” Ben Embarek said in the TV interview. “We know that when you move a lab, it disturbs everything…That entire procedure is always a disruptive element in the daily work routine of a lab.”
Ben Embarek also said that it was likely that a researcher working out in the field could have become infected collecting bat samples, listing it as a case where “the virus jumps directly from a bat to a human.”
However, a report from New York magazine earlier this year casts doubt on that theory, noting that when six field workers became sick in a Chinese cave back in 2012 with a virus that is the closest known relative to SARS-CoV-2, they were taken to the hospital and none of the hospital workers got sick, meaning that the virus was not transmissible.
Dr. Steven Quay and UC Berkeley emeritus professor of physics Richard Muller explained in The Wall Street Journal back in June that the genomic structure of COVID-19 was unlike anything discovered in nature, which is the strongest evidence the coronavirus was altered in a lab.
The two explained that in gain-of-function research, a spike protein is altered for the purpose of making a virus more transmissible or lethal. A specific genomic sequence, CGG-CGG (known as “double CGG”), they said, has “never been found naturally” in “the entire class of coronaviruses that includes CoV-2.” They explained that natural processes could not create a sequence combination if it “isn’t present in any other virus.”
The two wrote:
Although the double CGG is suppressed naturally, the opposite is true in laboratory work. The insertion sequence of choice is the double CGG. That’s because it is readily available and convenient, and scientists have a great deal of experience inserting it. An additional advantage of the double CGG sequence compared with the other 35 possible choices: It creates a useful beacon that permits the scientists to track the insertion in the laboratory.
Now the damning fact. It was this exact sequence that appears in CoV-2. Proponents of zoonotic origin must explain why the novel coronavirus, when it mutated or recombined, happened to pick its least favorite combination, the double CGG. Why did it replicate the choice the lab’s gain-of-function researchers would have made?
They noted that when Chinese scientists published a paper in February 2020, it omitted any mention of the sequence that scientists can identify when they examine the coronavirus. They continued:
There is additional scientific evidence that points to CoV-2’s gain-of-function origin. The most compelling is the dramatic differences in the genetic diversity of CoV-2, compared with the coronaviruses responsible for SARS and MERS.
Both of those were confirmed to have a natural origin; the viruses evolved rapidly as they spread through the human population, until the most contagious forms dominated. Covid-19 didn’t work that way. It appeared in humans already adapted into an extremely contagious version. No serious viral “improvement” took place until a minor variation occurred many months later in England.
Such early optimization is unprecedented, and it suggests a long period of adaptation that predated its public spread. Science knows of only one way that could be achieved: simulated natural evolution, growing the virus on human cells until the optimum is achieved. That is precisely what is done in gain-of-function research. Mice that are genetically modified to have the same coronavirus receptor as humans, called “humanized mice,” are repeatedly exposed to the virus to encourage adaptation.
David Asher, who led the Trump administration’s investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, said in an interview earlier this year that the WIV was up to “some very hairy stuff with synthetic biology” and that biostatisticians from the U.S. government calculated that the odds of the coronavirus evolving naturally was one-in-13 billion.
The Wall Street Journal reported in May that three researchers from WIV were hospitalized in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report.