British institutions beholden to China or concerned about the effect on science appear uninterested in investigating the lab leak hypothesis
As a US Senate committee’s full, 300-page report on the origin of covid now makes clear, a whole string of clues now points towards a laboratory accident as the probable cause of the covid pandemic.
For example, there is: evidence of a biosafety crisis at the lab in the autumn of 2019; the Chinese authorities’ refusal to share details of early human cases of the disease in November 2019; persistent reports from US intelligence that these early cases includes lab workers; the apparent start of vaccine manufacture in China even before the outbreak was declared; and the astonishingly uncooperative attitude of the Chinese authorities to investigating the origin.
Add to these: the failure to find infected animals in markets or on farms; the coincidence of the virus’s closest relatives at the time of the outbreak being inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology; the revelation that that institute brought about 200 kinds of bat coronavirus to Wuhan from a long way away; the risky nature of the research they did to combine the genes of new viruses with existing ones and test them on human cells; the surprising finding that the virus that caused covid has a unique genetic feature that just happens to be of the kind that the institute had been inserting into other viruses; and the blank refusal to share their database of viruses they were working on with the outside world after taking it offline in September 2019.
Despite the best efforts of a small group of western virologists who funded or collaborated with that Wuhan laboratory to shut down the debate in the west and label a lab leak a conspiracy theory, the matter will not go away. Yet the British science establishment and the British government, normally so ready to boast of our reputation as a biomedical research hub second only to the United States, has done literally nothing to contribute to this debate. I cannot think of a single significant contribution from our universities and institutes, except the strange role that the Wellcome Trust played in convening a meeting in February 2020 that effectively agreed to mislead the public about the plausibility of a lab leak.
With the US government compromised by its having funded the very work in the very lab in Wuhan that is under suspicion, there was a golden opportunity for British scientists and spies to step in as honest brokers and piece together all the evidence. Yet they refused to do so.
When I urged the Royal Society at least to debate the matter, they politely declined. When I urged the Academy of Medical Sciences (of which I am a fellow) to investigate, they told me the topic was “too controversial”. Nature, Britain’s and the world’s premier science journal, has confined its reporting to condescending dismissal of all speculation about a lab leak.
When I asked a senior scientist to help wake up the science establishment to the biggest enigma science has faced in decades, he said he thought it was vital we do not find out what happened lest it annoy the Chinese government. This is not the stance anybody would take over an accident in an airliner, a chemical plant or a nuclear reactor. Yet unlike such accidents the pandemic killed millions.
Of course he is right about the reason for our reticence. The Foreign Office is in permanent kow-tow. Our universities and science journals are dependent directly or indirectly on Chinese funds and infested with people who openly admire authoritarian communism. Senior scientists are worried that admitting a lab leak is plausible would damage the reputation of science. To which I say: not half as much as trying to cover it up.