News and Commentary

Top U.S. Official: ‘Growing Body Of Evidence’ Coronavirus Leaked Out Of Chinese Lab

Says coronavirus likely escaped through a “leak or an accident”
An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory (L) at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 17, 2020. - The P4 epidemiological laboratory was built in co-operation with French bio-industrial firm Institut Merieux and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The facility is among a handful of labs around the world cleared to handle Class 4 pathogens (P4) - dangerous viruses that pose a high risk of person-to-person transmission. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

A top U.S. official reportedly told politicians from around the world last week that a “growing body of evidence” points to a Chinese lab as being the point of origin for the coronavirus pandemic.

“Matthew Pottinger, who is President Donald Trump’s respected Deputy National Security Adviser, told politicians from around the world that even China’s leaders now openly admit their previous claims that the virus originated in a Wuhan market are false,” The Daily Mail reported. “The comments, which were made during a Zoom conference with MPs on China last week, come as a team of experts from the World Health Organization prepare to fly to Wuhan to investigate how the pandemic began.”

The Mail reported that Pottinger pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is only several miles away from the wet market in Wuhan, saying, “There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus.”

Pottinger is a former officer in the U.S. Marines, is fluent in Mandarin, and is a former journalist for Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

Pottinger reportedly noted that officials believe that the coronavirus escaped through a “leak or an accident,” adding, “even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory Party leader who attended the meeting, said the remarks showed that the United States was “stiffening” its position on the coronavirus pandemic originating in a lab accident.

“I was told the US have an ex-scientist from the laboratory in America at the moment,” Smith said. “That was what I heard a few weeks ago. I was led to believe this is how they have been able to stiffen up their position on how this outbreak originated.”

“The truth is there are people who have been in those labs who maintain that this is the case,” Smith continued. “We don’t know what they have been doing in that laboratory. They may well have been fiddling with bat coronaviruses and looking at them and they made a mistake. I’ve spoken to various people who believe that to be the case.”

The Mail also highlighted the reaction of Sam Armstrong, communications director at the Henry Jackson Society foreign policy think-tank. “With such a senior and respected intelligence official speaking in support of this claim, the time has come for the British Government to seek both answers about and compensation for Covid-19,” Armstrong said.

Some scientists have pushed back on the theory that the coronavirus leaked in a lab accident. Wuhan Institute of Virology Vice Director Yuan Zhiming told NBC News in August that scientists at the facility first received samples of the virus after it had already begun to spread. “I have repeatedly emphasized that it was on Dec. 30 that we got contact with the samples of SARS-like pneumonia or pneumonia of unknown cause sent from the hospital,” said Yuan. “We have not encountered the novel coronavirus before that, and without this virus, there is no way that it is leaked from the lab.”

Meanwhile, China has openly said for many months that the coronavirus probably did not come from the wet market.

Top U.S. officials and “most of the 17 intelligence agencies” have reportedly thought that the coronavirus pandemic started with a Chinese lab, but believe that it was an accident.

“Late last year, foreign journalists were barred from visiting an abandoned copper mine in the southwest of the country, where the closest known relative of Sars-Cov-2 was discovered in 2013 by Chinese virologists and taken back to the Wuhan laboratory. A bat research team had samples taken on a recent visit to the mine confiscated,” The Sunday Times reported. “Dr. Shi [Zhengli, a virologist at the institute and known as the ‘bat woman’ for her work related to coronaviruses] discovered RaTG13 in the mine after six workers in Tongguan died from an unknown illness in 2012. She took the viral samples back to Wuhan for further analysis.”

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