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The Covid dissidents taking on China Beijing's science stooges are being unmasked by an international team of online sleuths

Credit: Hector Retamal/ AFP / Getty


April 13, 2021   7 mins

Feng Zijian played a central role in the World Health Organisation’s inquiry into the origins of Covid-19. The Chinese epidemiologist was one of the team leaders who briefed diplomats on the findings, which fell suspiciously in line with Beijing’s version of events. Feng explained how the carefully vetted team had concluded that the virus was most likely to be a natural disease that spilled over from bats to humans, although it could have been imported on frozen food. The chance of a leak from a Chinese laboratory was dismissed as “extremely unlikely”.

The Chinese-controlled results sparked global accusations of a whitewash and further corroded confidence in the WHO. Few experts give much credibility to claims the pandemic was imported on a packet of chilled pork or slab of frozen pangolin sold at a market. And demands are growing for the leak hypothesis to be taken more seriously. Wuhan, after all, is the major research centre for bat coronaviruses in Asia, where there are secretive labs, known biosafety concerns and high-risk experiments being conducted.

It has now emerged that Feng, deputy head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an expert on emergency health responses, performed an even more sinister role as the pandemic played out. He was one of four names copied on a CDC memo sent out in February 2020 ordering China’s scientists not to share any data, documents or specimens relating to the epidemic and to “prioritise the interests of the country”. The memo warned that anyone violating the request would be “dealt with severely in accordance with discipline, laws and regulations” — a threat to be taken seriously in a country ruled by fear.

The document, originally obtained by Associated Press last year among a cache labelled “not to be made public”, was a key plank in President Xi Jinping’s campaign to regain control of the pandemic narrative by silencing dissenting scientific voices and shutting down internal debate. It was sent out following the publication of report by two Chinese scientists which concluded “the coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory”, as well as a series of investigations by local media and citizen reporters into pandemic failings. The scientific report was swiftly withdrawn and journalists jailed on grounds such as “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

This nugget about Dr Feng’s disturbing dual role — as a voice of the WHO study into pandemic origins while also party to a Communist dictatorship’s clampdown on unfettered scientific discussion — was dug out by an Indian architect and film-maker, who shared it earlier this month on social media under his moniker ‘The Seeker’. “I know how to use a search engine,” he told me.

Last year, he made an even more significant discovery: a thesis that discussed how three miners died of a mysterious respiratory disease, eerily similar to Covid 19, they caught while clearing out bat droppings in a cave network in Yunnan, southern China. The trio were infected in an abandoned copper mine where scientists from Wuhan Institute of Virology sampled RaTG13, the closest known relative of Sars-Cov-2.

‘The Seeker’ is a member of Drastic, an informal guerilla group of internet sleuths, scientists and data experts who have spent the past year scouring a multitude of digital sources for such vital pieces of evidence. Some members have expertise in areas such as microbiology, genetics and virology. Others are data specialists, engineers or simply obsessed with discovering the truth about the origin of this wretched pandemic. Some hide their identities; others are open. They have been accused of hacking and fiercely deny it. Occasionally they hurtle down blind alleys.

Yet there is no doubt their collective efforts — and some of the illuminating evidence they have uncovered — have been crucial in challenging both China and the scientific establishment to ensure the lab leak theory is properly investigated. “We have exposed so many things they wanted to cover up, while there has been too much geo-politics around the issues,” said Gilles Demaneuf, a French data scientist who works at a New Zealand bank and is another Drastic member. “Many people now accept there is a possibility that a lab leak was the cause of the pandemic and that this is not a conspiracy theory as claimed at the outset.”

It has been fascinating to see, in the course of my investigations over the past year, how this group of activists — in tandem with few brave scientists — has forced the lab leak hypothesis from the shadows. Note how the UK was one of 14 nations that reacted so strongly to the dismal WHO report by accusing China of “withholding access to complete, original data and samples”, while Anthony Blinken, the new US secretary of state, criticised China’s cover-up and called for deeper investigation at the weekend. Even Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general and a long-time Beijing crony from his days as a minister in an Ethiopian autocracy, had to insist that “further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions”.

Typical of Drastic’s work was the way Demaneuf stumbled across an interview in the Chinese magazine Health Times with Yu Chuanhua, professor of biostatistics at Wuhan University and compiler of China’s official case database. The Beijing line, rubber-stamped in the WHO report, claims the first confirmed Covid case was on December 8, 2019 with no evidence of the virus in Wuhan before then — although this conflicts with research published in medical journals, media reports and claims made by the US State Department that Wuhan scientists were possibly infected in the autumn. Yet Prof Chuanhua told the magazine there were 47,000 cases on his database by late February, which included one suspected fatality — a patient who had fallen ill on September 29, 2019 — followed by two suspected cases on November 14 and 21.

This interview took place on the same day that Chinese health authorities issued their scientist gag. Prof Chuanhua subsequently contacted his interviewer to retract what he had said, claiming the onset dates may have been entered wrongly. Now go back to that memo tied to Dr Feng: it ordered experts to withdraw and redo any papers or “progress reports” that had not been sanctioned. Is this a coincidence — or another sign of China’s appalling cover-up, now endorsed by the WHO?

Suggested reading
The Covid dissidents taking on China

By Freddie Sayers

Another key figure in Drastic is Yuri Deigin, a biotech entrepreneur. Early in 2020, he started to doubt the conventional wisdom that the lab leak hypothesis was some kind of crazy conspiracy. And the more he delved, the more his doubts grew. He published his thoughts in a long analysis last April, first in Russian and then two weeks later in English. This prompted private discussion groups with fellow sceptics on social media, which evolved into the informal grouping with its determination to challenge a complacent scientific consensus that the pandemic was, beyond doubt, a natural spillover event.

Later, Deigin published a paper with Austrian-based microbiologist Rossana Segreto given the blunt title “The genetic structure of Sars-CoV-2 does not rule out a laboratory origin”. The Canadian-Russian scientist continues to press his case, having just published a pre-print paper with researchers from Canada, Japan and Spain highlighting the existence of undisclosed coronaviruses at Wuhan Institute of Virology, and expressing fresh concerns over its biosafety.

He has come under fire from other scientists. “They attacked my credibility,” he tells me, “my competence and me personally but I’ve destroyed critics with solid arguments.” Another scientist in the group, an academic in the US, was less fortunate. He lost his research post, which he says followed a complaint and warning to stay silent from his university’s corporate partner when he aired his dissenting views in the media.

Drastic has 26 core members divided into sub-groups exploring aspects such as biosafety, missing databases, coronavirus vaccine development, tracing and translating deleted documents, along with its own website. The co-ordinator, who adopts a mischievous style on social media, calls himself “Billy Bostickson”. He admits to feeling a duty to carry out the investigations, “out of respect for so many old folks who died and the terrible effect on local economies”.

Another member of the team is Monali Rahalkar, an Indian microbiologist, who wondered why prominent scientists seemed so certain the virus had natural zoonotic origins. So she started ploughing through scientific papers during her lockdown in Pune last March. “I read one paper that argued Sars-CoV-2 could not have come from a lab,” she says, “yet I could see they were doing lots of work on various coronaviruses in Wuhan.”

Rahalkar learned about the miners’ deaths and high-risk “gain of function” research carried out in Wuhan that forces viruses to evolve fast in order to assist vaccine development, but which some experts have long warned risk sparking a pandemic. Working with her husband, a fellow scientist, she carried out “blast” tests on genetic sequences taken from another strain of bat coronavirus found by Professor Shi Zhengli — the celebrated Wuhan-based virologist known as “Batwoman” for her expeditions to gather samples in caves where the mammals roost hundreds of miles from her lab. This strain came from samples collected in Yunnan and was identified in 2016, yet there was no link made to the miners. The pair were puzzled by their findings since it showed such similarity to RaTG13, so they posted a paper about their research.

Following their criticism, Prof Shi published an addendum to her paper in Nature, admitting these were the same virus and also linked to the miners’ deaths — and that she also has genetic sequences from seven other unidentified viruses sampled there. Inevitably, her reaction has fuelled concerns over the Wuhan labs, especially since this prominent scientist has admitted her first thought on learning about a novel coronavirus outbreak in the central Chinese city was that it could be a lab leak.

Drastic’s members have also found evidence of virus databases being deleted, anomalies in scientific papers and published statements, details of pathogenic experiments on humanised mice with modified coronaviruses, scrubbed lab website pages, even details about patents for bat breeding cages at Wuhan Institute of Virology.

There is still no conclusive explanation for the origin of this devastating pandemic. But science, like journalism, should always follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads. This crucial issue was clouded by Donald Trump’s aggressive intervention on the subject, since his toxicity made it easier for experts to dismiss concerns of a lab leak as a conspiracy theory; it enabled respected scientific journals to close down debate and for reporters to ignore glaring conflicts of interest among key figures.

Yet the significance of these sleuths goes beyond even the task of unravelling the origins of a new virus that has killed almost 3 million people worldwide and raising uncomfortable questions over closed minds, let alone posing the question of whether scientists themselves might have accidentally sparked this global disaster. Ultimately, their digging is a reminder that in the digital age even the most powerful states, even an Orwellian dictatorship such as China under Xi Jinping, cannot erase everything from the past and hide all truths, however hard it tries.


Ian Birrell is an award-winning foreign reporter and columnist. He is also the founder, with Damon Albarn, of Africa Express.

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Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
3 years ago

“ This crucial issue was clouded by Donald Trump’s aggressive intervention on the subject, since his toxicity made it easier for experts to dismiss concerns of a lab leak as a conspiracy theory; it enabled respected scientific journals to close down debate and for reporters to ignore glaring conflicts of interest among key figures.”

The issue was that the scientific, academic and journalistic community were so determined to ensure Trump lost the upcoming election, that they were willing turn a blind eye to the substantial circumstantial evidence that the pandemic could be the product of a leak at the Wuhan facility and in doing so became the useful idiots of a totalitarian regime.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Excellent comment. There has been a conspiracy to frame the lab leak theory as a conspiracy. You may have hit the nail on the head as to why.

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
3 years ago

Are you guys serious? Do you really not know what’s going on? Are you really that clueless? Perhaps it’s time you started educating yourselves on whats really happening in the world. We wouldn’t be in this mess, if guys like you would wake up. God help us. You do know that Nuremberg 2.0 for crimes against humanity is about to commence, right?.

David Hartlin
David Hartlin
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

Oh oh , it’s always a warning sign when someone says “educate yourself”

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  David Hartlin

Yes, it means ‘read sources that confirm my biases.’

Mint Julip
Mint Julip
3 years ago
Reply to  David Hartlin

Yes, it’s indicative of a closed mind and profound ignorance, I find. It’s very sad.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  David Hartlin

I detest that arrogant expression.

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago
Reply to  David Hartlin

Yep, a big red flag.

Dan Martin
Dan Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

You do know that if you posted a comment that made any sense people might engage with you instead of laughing at you.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

Do you really not know what’s going on?” Actually we do know. A Chinese cover-up.

Joel Birkeland
Joel Birkeland
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Yes. It can be blamed on Donald Trump. Unbelievable.

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
3 years ago
Reply to  Joel Birkeland

Trump is not the problem, he’s the solution, as you will see shortly.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

If you read the original post properly Matthew Powell is not blaming Trump. He is blaming the people who wanted to ensure Trump lost the election.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

To the issue of Trump we must also add the issue of Silicon Valley’s censorship and biasing. I don’t really understand why Silicon Valley aligned so much with China (probably promises of future contracts?) but they also played a huge role in creating this mess

Bits Nibbles
Bits Nibbles
3 years ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

They align with China, because in the case of hardware makers – that is where almost 100% of their production comes from. In the case of software *and* hardware makers, it’s by far the largest market in the world for the crap the tech-companies push. It is currently the hand that feeds.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

I found it curious that Reddit was so adamant about refuting the lab thesis. Reddit has become quite leftist so Trump might have been a factor, but the discussion was quick to knock those suggesting lab origins.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

I thought Reddit has a Chinese owner.

David Jory
David Jory
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

The British government also claimed that the lab leak was a conspiracy theory.
Funny how many so called conspiracy theories turn out to be true.
I am concerned that we are running out of them as they are each proven to be factually correct!

Stu White
Stu White
3 years ago
Reply to  David Jory

Indeed. Labelling something as a conspiracy theory is increasing becoming a good litmus test of whether that thing is true.

Stu White
Stu White
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Absolutely!

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Stu White

If you read Yuri Deigin’s research he asked the obvious question and that was as the bat virus RaTG13 and the Pangolin MP789 both do not have a furin cleavage site then where did the four amino acid inserts in the Receptor Binding Domain come from? Even eminent Professors cannot answer that question. You simply cannot ignore his research as “Conspiracy” For those who have not read his research then please do and you will be wiser for it.
https://yurideigin.medium.com/lab-made-cov2-genealogy-through-the-lens-of-gain-of-function-research-f96dd7413748

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

RaTG13 is one coronavirus that shows high similarity to SARS-CoV-2. Another, with roughly the same degree of similarity, has been found in frozen bat samples in Cambodia, and a less similar coronavirus in Japanese bats. There are almost certainly many, many more bat coronaviruses waiting to be discovered and sequenced, some of which may have the bits missing from RaTG13 and the Cambodian samples.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Or shoved thorough GOF experiments to “prepare” for the next pandemic. Now that SARs -CoV-2 has animal hosts we can be certain eradication has become impossible.

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago

The real story for me is the behavior of the WHO. They are an utterly compromised organization, yet so few countries, institutions, or news organizations seem willing to acknowledge that obvious conclusion.
Trump wanted to reduce the US contribution to their funding and he was right. I doubt any sane person will ever trust that organization again, and that’s a very sad situation because, on paper, the WHO has a worthwhile mandate to improve global health.

Waldo Warbler
Waldo Warbler
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

If Trump had responded by doubling or trebling the US funding, there might have been more ability to ensure that the dialog was not controlled by China.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Waldo Warbler

The idea is to behave morally, not to clone the behaviour of totalitarian regimes

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Waldo Warbler

US funding for WHO is many multiples of Chinese funding. China likely has kompramat on WHO members.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The idea that they are compromised is itself Neo-con propaganda. The US is/was the biggest funder of the WHO. The claim that China got their man as president is nonsense, the elections were behind closed doors and at the time nobody claimed that he was anything other than the African candidate, albeit supported by Asian countries as well.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think the WHO is done; at least I hope so. They have fumbled through this entire mess and no one is really listening to them anymore.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

It gets worse, the WHO vaccination procedure is stab and push the plunger, which as the vaccines are for intramuscular delivery isn’t good, intramuscular injections usually include aspiration between the stab and push to check for artery/vein involvement, if you get blood it’s pull out and re-stab then aspirate again before pushing. Failure to do so may put the vaccine direct into the blood stream and is a possible cause of clotting, thanks should go to the Danish medics for publishing that.
ï»ż

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
3 years ago

China is an economy built on regulatory arbitrage. This is their Achilles heel and a good example of the one context in which I would support tariffs: to rebalance regulatory arbitrage.

If a good costs $1 to make in the West, complying with all the labour, environmental and governance laws but $0.20 to make in China where workers are abused, the environment is trashed and the difference in cost estimable to be $0.40 lower cost of living and $0.40 regulatory arbitrage, then put $0.40 of tariffs on the Chinese good to address the regulatory arbitrage component.

It’s not just China and it’s a poison of globalisation economics that rewards regulatory arbitrage. As a matter of good sense, regulatory arbitrage should be equalised through tariffs to drive global worker and environmental standards up. It will always (foreseeably anyway) be cheaper to manufacture in Malaysia than Michigan, but the competitive landscape is fairer when regulatory factors are neutralised, encouraging a raising of global standards.

However frustrating it is that this basic step is not taken, COVID transforms the imperative to end China’s place in the global supply chain: At the very least China is guilty of a disinformation campaign and gross irresponsibility. At most, this was an act of war – not a far fetched idea given the shadow digital war that is already underway.

Either way, reparations are due and the best way forward is to put extraordinary tariffs on every Chinese manufactured good to the point that it would be cheaper to buy a toy car made by artisans in Lichtenstein than it would be to buy from China.

We must stop hollowing out our own economies only to hand industries over to China who will in turn weaponise against the West and against our way of life.

Waldo Warbler
Waldo Warbler
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

No, put $1 of tariffs to begin to recoup some of the losses from Chinese IP theft.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

I bet you are fairly new to anti globalisation. The time to stop globalisation was twenty years ago, but only the left protested. In fact the writer here was part of a conservative government that was so pro China they invited Xi over to have a cuppa at the palace. And a hundred gun salute. The writer was also a speechwriter for Cameron, Britain’s worst PM since the 19thC.

China is no threat to Europe. It’s a threat to US hegemony which isn’t the same thing.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

Britain’s worst PM since the 19thC – Sorry that award has to go to Neville Chamberlain. Theresa May runs him a close second though.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I think Chamberlain had a good excuse, given the experiences of his generation. Theresa May, er, ……………..
NB, Chamberlain declared war, recovering some of the dignity lost in 1938, conceded to Churchill, assisted him, and then died in 1940. Theresa May remains a Conservative MP, and unrepentant, judging by her statements.

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Unfair to Chamberlain I’d say after seeing what happened in WWI.
Theresa May has to be our worst PM followed by Blair who pooisoned everything he touched.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

We must stop hollowing out our own economies 
I’m glad you admit it isn’t primarily the fault of China – or Malaysia. Western companies begged to be allowed into China; they were in no way forced.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

And we also need to be willing to buy things at a higher price; therefore helping to eliminate the desire to buy cheap goods from China.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

I agree but I don’t see it happening when even small everyday requirements are made in China, and what is worse, China is suppling all the LF tests which the British government insists that every schoolchild and teacher uses twice weekly.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

I live by very modest means but I check and double check country of origin before buying online and body swerve China.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

From my understanding of economics, tariffs always inhibit trade and consequentially depress standards of living. Better to raise wages by setting international minimum levels that gradually increase. This is similar to trying to ensure that companies pay their taxes where they make their money. Globalisation is no bad thing, what is problematic is the lack of governance of international trade and the absence of democracy in international institutions. By failing to evolve global institutions, power and wealth increasingly concentrates into the hands of plutocrats.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Mochrie

Sadly no way to get that agreement on wages.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

Quite agree. Tariffs seem the only way to force abandonment of mercantile trade. US and Chinese greed have blinded many to the risks of China dominating the world order. The free world must reign in China.

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

Not how the market works alas…

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago

It is an almost unbelievable coincidence that a new corona virus appeared in humans in Wuhan, the site of Chinas foremost bat virus research lab. Particularly when the only similar bat virus we currently know of is 1800kms away in Yunan province.

If people in Britain living near Porton Down suddenly developed a strange new disease you can be sure as eggs are eggs, that the MSM would be all over it as a leak from that establishment.

If the CCP have a better idea on the true genesis of covid-19, surely they would have provided the irrefutable evidence by now. The reason they haven’t is I suspect because they already know.

Im almost tempted to say that we should probably use Occam’s Razor when considering the genesis of Covid19… though I’m not sure it is a accurate enough tool for the job.

Last edited 3 years ago by William Harvey
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

Exactly. And this is a point that Bret Weinstein makes when discussing the Lab Leak Hypothesis.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

the only similar bat virus we currently know of is 1800kms away in Yunan province
An almost equally similar, but different, coronavirus has been detected in frozen samples from Cambodian bats. It’s highly likely there are many more waiting to be discovered in the region.
Metagenomic sequencing identified nearly identical viruses sharing 92.6% nucleotide identity with SARS-CoV-2. Most genomic regions are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, with the exception of a small region corresponding to the spike N terminal domain. The discovery of these viruses in a bat species not found in China indicates that SARS-CoV-2 related viruses have a much wider geographic distribution than previously understood, and suggests that Southeast Asia represents a key area to consider in the ongoing search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and in future surveillance for coronaviruses.” – A novel SARS-CoV-2 related coronavirus in bats from Cambodia, V Hul, 2021

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

But?
92.6% is a long way from the 100% of Sars Covis-2. What were the intermediary steps and can they be found in the wild? In the laboratory, where they were working on gain of function, what intermediary steps were there that moved the virus in the direction of the version that changed the world?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Mochrie

There are millions, probably billions, of bats in the wild in south-east Asia and southern China, so it’s entirely possible that a much closer relative (or two coronaviruses which through recombination give a closer relative) of SARS-CoV-2 is out there somewhere, yet to be discovered.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Absolutely possible and it is absolutely possible, given the zoonotic nature of the virus that that virus could originate from infected humans, or be deliberately infected to provide closure to the story. No matter what happens in the future and how convincing the story, there can only ever remain doubts.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

Very few of those that work at Porton Down live close by in Porton, some live in Salisbury and most beyond that, their romantic contacts have to be both security cleared and their addresses given in case of an ‘accidental’ release, so they can be ‘retrieved’, BTDTWTTS.
Having worked with Chinese PhD s-TOO-DENSE in University Bio-Labs I can well believe the accidental release theory, finding samples that should have been autoclaved to neutralise any hazard before disposal left lying on benches or throw in inappropriate bins was not unusual.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil John

How do you contain a virus with 100% certainty? There is always the possibility of human contamination and no matter how good your vermin control, you never know what is lurking behind the walls. This is a zoonotic virus, so potentially many avenues of escape.
Since the laboratory was working with international collaboration, who is to say that the virus did not originate in another BS4 laboratory, in another country and arrive in Wuhan, carried by an unsuspecting visiting scientist, or even deliberately released in Wuhan. There is a long way to go with the investigation and truth seems unlikely to ever be willingly given.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

There were several putative poisonings in Salisbury, just down the road from Porton Down, but Bellingcat unequivocally showed that they all were the result of Russian agents. In the murky world of secrets, all the tricks of the conjurer are used to deliberately obfuscate.

Micheal Lucken
Micheal Lucken
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

Agree with that apart from the faith in the MSM regarding novichok at Porton Down. I don’t remember them questioning the coincidence of those poisonings happening on that particular doorstep, being in no doubt it was the Russians wot done it. There may have been a perfectly good explanation why they chose that particular corner to release the deadly toxin but I must confess to being astonished then at the lack of inquiry into the obvious alternative possible source.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Micheal Lucken

There was speculation about that, in particular from some Youtubers who were ‘friendly’ towards Russia. Of course, since Navalny was poisoned in Russia with the same agent, they have gone a bit quiet now.

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago

China is an awful country run by awful people. It may or may not be the case that the current fears in the West over China’s ambitions are baseless and whipped up by a US which regards it as a threat to its global leadership, but the incarceration and enslavement of the Uighur people, the casual dishonouring of treaty commitments, the theft of intellectual property, the harvesting of human organs (still going on), the-make-it-up-as-you-go-along legal system and a revolting industrialised cruelty to animals are not propaganda fostered by the both politicians and western media, they’re facts. Have they lied about the source of the virus? Of course they lied. It’s what they do.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

Faultless, thank you for that brilliant excoriation of the CCP.

John Smith
John Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

Indeed. I have always called it Wuhan Flu – or when feeling playful Kung Flu.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

Substitute China with USA and keep and open mind. The USA has spied on everyone for many decades. It is an oppressive state that disproportionately locks up black people. It has a smear of democracy but is really run by a few wealthy people for their own benefit. Like China, North Korea, Russia, it tells it’s population that it is the best place on earth. In this perpetual battle for power some places are better than others, but perfection is a long way off anywhere.

Waldo Warbler
Waldo Warbler
3 years ago

This crucial issue was clouded by Donald Trump’s aggressive intervention on the subject, since his toxicity made it easier for experts to dismiss concerns of a lab leak as a conspiracy theory; it enabled respected scientific journals to close down debate and for reporters to ignore glaring conflicts of interest among key figures.”
Astonishing. Simply incredible that a serious journalist would write this. Trump is truly blameless in this respect. That once-respected journals would dismiss and suppress serious discussion ‘because Trump innit’ is unforgivable.
We expect idiocy from the ignorant Millennial censors of Facebook and twitter, but not from serious academic outlets.
You do not have to be a Trump fan (Lord knows, I am not) to see that this was foolishness of the highest order.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Waldo Warbler

I don’t think it’s blaming Trump. It’s blaming of those ‘experts’ who dismissed concerns of a lab leak because of Trump’s toxicity.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago

It was a backlash to Trump.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago

Don’t you remember his Bleach comment? And then the Hydroxychloroquine episode. The liberal scientific community really went to town on him over that. In fact if the drug had been used with Zinc it would have been a different matter as HCQ acts as an Ionosphere to get Zinc intracellularly into blood cells which inhibits virus entry.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

HCQ acts as an ionosphere, part of our planet’s upper atmosphere? And even if it did protect blood cells, they are not the principal cells affected by the virus.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

This ‘Gain of Function Research’ does seem super dodgy and has been recognised as such across the globe for some time apparently, a cursory search of the internet suggests.

It seems like the stuff of scientific dystopian nightmares, but creating a man-made more virulent form of a disease in a ‘safe’ laboratory is indeed very much a thing and has been for decades, apparently primarily in order to always stay one step ahead of it when it comes to preparing vaccines against it.

Volker Stollorz, a renowned science journalist, maintained at a symposium on the subject in Germany in 2014 that “the public knows that with the ever increasing experimental power and the growing diversity of scientific disciplines nobody can claim to grasp precisely what may happen…researchers who want to perform experiments creating manmade, new, more virulent, and transmissible microbial life forms not existing in nature have to first and foremost acknowledge the existence of the society they experiment in”

To me, it’s redolent of genies and bottles, toothpaste and tubes or what I like to call the Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey phenomenon ie just because you can reach a note that nobody else can it doesn’t mean you should.

Last edited 3 years ago by G Harris
Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Spot on – though of course it could be added that these engineered, “virulent and transmissible microbial life forms not existing in nature” would be very adaptable to be weaponised, regardless of any accidental escapes.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Hard to believe that the original SARS-CoV was more lethal than CoV 2 but was contained as it has poor transmission to humans as was the even more lethal MERS. That now appears to have been resolved.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

Why hard to believe? SARS has a very short time lag – a few hours at most – between becoming infectious and becoming severely ill, making contact tracing pretty straightforward. With SARS-CoV-2, you can be presymptomatic and spreading it for several days, maybe not realising you have it even when symptoms develop (many cases are mild), or totally asymptomatic and still spreading it.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Precisely so. A novel virus that has asymptomatic carriers – perfection for a weaponized virus. Perhaps escaped before the vaccine had been fully developed.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

perfection for a weaponized virus
Only if your own citizens are vaccinated or you have some kind of cure, which China didn’t. Otherwise, using such a thing as a weapon is sheer madness, something only death cult loonies like ISIS or Aum Shinrikyo would contemplate, and I’m not at all sure even they’d go through with it. And even if it escaped before being fully developed, there’s no way China could have vaccinated its population against such a weapon without this being known to other nations’ intelligence agencies, so I can’t see them, or anyone else, wanting to develop such a thing.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Accidental release?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

But why would they be trying to develop such a weapon in the first place?

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

They know, I don’t. I don’t understand why they feel compelled to build up their stockpile of nuclear weapons or decide to build many aircraft carriers. Perhaps they envision a new world order?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

The declared aim of nuclear weapons is to deter any attack, for them not to be used at all. A first strike, wiping out all the enemy’s land-based nuclear weapons, is another possibility. A weaponised coronavirus would be more than likely to attack one’s own population as much as anyone else’s.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Such things could be very easily weaponised. Ensuring only ‘the enemy’ was affected would be next to impossible.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Ah, but what if the real weapon isn’t the relatively harmless virus (most dangerous to the old and sick, in other words the “dispensable”), but is in fact the contrived and exaggerated FEAR of the virus, with the consequent economic and social damage and power over a terrified, compliant populace? It’s interesting that after the initial nightmarish images from China, and its extreme lockdown which it insisted to the world was the only solution to this epidemic, the country very soon returned to business as usual while the rest of the world’s governments are inflicting disaster on their own economies and dismantling democracy and human rights. Just like that (as Tommy Cooper would say). Sleight of hand, perhaps?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Unfortunately, we share a world with people who may decide it’s a good idea to develop such things (maybe to further a career), and having started to do it, aren’t sufficiently clever or careful enough to prevent an escape.
One hopes that in the West, such ideas are public knowledge, and thus forbidden, or subjected to independent monitoring of safety. In a country paranoid about secrecy, and scientifically ambitious, we are entitled to speculate and worry about what goes on.

Gary Baxter
Gary Baxter
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

I believe we’ve trained too many, yes, too many microbiologists and the like so that many of them have to find new fields of research for their PhD theses, research funding, academic promotion, or honorary titles. In a word, for their personal gains. I don’t think reasonable person or institution would want to do “gains of function” over extremely dangerous viruses found in the wild.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Baxter

Curiosity killed the cat. Of course reasonable, risk taking individuals would love to do this research. It is easy to walk down exciting paths and institutionally, progressive safe steps, progressively desensitise and cloud judgement.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

The Chinese were not that clever. They did not know how to build a BSL4 grade Lab. The French obliged them after which they were told to clear off. But the fact that most of the Wuhan Laboratory staff has to go to America for training and the fact that American diplomatic staff voiced concerns about poorly qualified staff working in the lab and eventually halted funding in Coronavirus research gives me a lot of concern.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

I was recently sent a photo of Barack Obama and Malinda Gates visiting the lab. Assuming the photograph was not a photoshop fake, then it shows the level of high powered involvement with this project. No one want to admit to a leak, since it would implicate many governments and important people in the death of millions of people. Admission would trigger the biggest mass action claim the world has ever seen.

Cynthia Neville
Cynthia Neville
3 years ago

Why is it that no Canadian-based news agency can come up with stories like this?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Because Trudeau and the Canadian state media aims to emulate the Chinese model of governance and society. In many respects they have already succeeded.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

also because it is nonsense.

David Hartlin
David Hartlin
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Indeed, from the very beginning I’ve been baffled by western democracies adopting the Chinese model. But I do believe it is a intentional power grab.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Spot on Fraser. Sadly, I agree.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago

Because they are in the pay of Trudeau and his government, independent news organisations who do not take those payments are often frozen out and excluded from official ‘press’ events and other news worthy gatherings/conferences, even those held in Europe, at the express request of Trudeau’s people.
Read ‘The Tyee’ to get a flavour of Canada’s West Coast (Vancouver) mindset, which mirrors Seattle’s ~100 miles to the South very closely, and it soon becomes evident just how left leaning some Canadians are.

David Hartlin
David Hartlin
3 years ago

Pretty good article until it got to the Orange Man Bad part.Maybe he was right?

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David Hartlin

The article did not say he was wrong, only that the way he went about it and the MSM anti-Trump on everything agenda harmed the case being made by serious scientists.
Ultimately being right counts for little, if you don’t achieve the right outcomes.
FWIW I think Trump was right about a lot of things, but on far too many of those issues he made the situation worse. What little good he did achieve will be rapidly reversed by Biden.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  David Hartlin

Why do people keep misinterpreting that post? Nobody said Trump was the problem.

Jim McNeillie
Jim McNeillie
3 years ago
Reply to  David Hartlin

It didn’t say Trump was wrong, just that his toxicity poisoned the debate.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
3 years ago

As soon as I realised there was a high-security level lab in Wuhan messing with this kind of research, it was just so obvious that had been the connection. The New York Post ran a story around it at that time, but it was equally obvious to me subsequently that MSM were leary of the story and the clear implications.I noticed that almost immediately denials came faster than any open-minded investigation, and the glib phrasing ‘conspiracy-theory’ thrown about to try to put people off the scent.

Ray Warren
Ray Warren
3 years ago

It’s ironic that the article talks about censorship and coercion in China. Who would expect anything else. The fact that most of the governments in the world are using the same methods is the real shock to me. In particular denying cheap safe medicines that work in favour of more expensive ones that don’t and vaccines with no long term safety data. Using lockdowns and masks that don’t work to keep the emergency going and causing more collateral deaths. It’s clear to me that the elite think ordinary people are of little consequence.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Ray Warren

denying cheap safe medicines that work in favour of more expensive ones that don’t 
Dexamethasone, a cheap, widely available, off-patent drug, is being promoted by the likes of the WHO as an effective COVID medicine. The WHO has found remdesivir, and many similar expensive, patented antivirals, of little proven benefit.
“The evidence suggested no important effect on mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, time to clinical improvement, and other patient-important outcomes.” – WHO recommends against the use of remdesivir in COVID-19 patients, 20 November 2020

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Sam Cel Roman
Sam Cel Roman
3 years ago

If I remember correctly, there was an important article in Nature published in Feb/March 2020 that somehow “definitively” proved that it was zoonotic.
I’d love to see a rebuttal to that.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam Cel Roman

The article didn’t claim to definitively prove it was zoonotic. It found the virus bore distinctive signs of natural evolution. The changes to the spike protein enabling it to infect humans seemed too ‘messy’ to have been deliberate.
“While the analyses above suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may bind human ACE2 with high affinity, computational analyses predict that the interaction is not ideal7 and that the RBD sequence is different from those shown in SARS-CoV to be optimal for receptor binding7,11. Thus, the high-affinity binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human ACE2 is most likely the result of natural selection on a human or human-like ACE2 that permits another optimal binding solution to arise. This is strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is not the product of purposeful manipulation.” – The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2, Nature Medicine, March 2020

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Arild Brock
Arild Brock
3 years ago

How dangerous and highly infectious viruses can a laboratory develop? Would someone tell, please? The question could also be put like this: How vulnerable are we to laboratory leaks and to deliberate biological attack? (If I were a general in any army, I would like to know the answer to those questions.)
Regardless of the answers to the above questions I believe Covid-19 remains a «semi-dangerous» virus. It is not new that elderly and other vulnerable people die from respiratory disease, but we do have more of them now than ever. (Do I have to declare myself as not being indifferent to elderly and other vulnerable people’s life and death?) How dangerous Covid-19 actually is, is disputed. But that discussion, however important, seems to have gradually silenced. I find that a shame, because we risk losing ourselves as a culture based on reason.
A death toll of 3 million related to Covid may sound a lot. But in a developed country each month one thousandth of the population dies. Worldwide it must be a higher percentage, leading to more than ten million deaths a month. But most of the youth’s and half the rest the population’s lives severely inhibited makes up a much higher number. That can also be seen as a matter of “life and death”. 

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Arild Brock

How dangerous and highly infectious viruses can a laboratory develop?
Very dangerous and infectious. But limiting the threat to one’s enemies is quite another matter. We’re seeing how SARS-CoV-2 is already starting to outwit some of the vaccines.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

What is the relevance of that?

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Arild Brock

Without making a new virus, we know that deadly viruses can leak, as was the case with smallpox leak from a Birmingham laboratory in 1978.
Germ warfare is not new. It has been used for centuries with dead bodies being deliberately catapulted into besieged buildings to infect. There was a big push in the sixties to develop infectious agents, but there has always been the problem that infection in the enemy can readily infect you, so typically not a good idea.
Gain of function research however, offers the possibility of devising infectious agents and perfecting vaccines before releasing the infection to the world. This ensures that pharmaceutical companies have a ready source of revenue and the great money go round has a nice predictable buffer. If you can sell 8 billion doses of vaccine, your balance sheet is gong to look very healthy.
The average death age in the UK is 82, the average death rate from Sars CoV-2 is 82. It cost ÂŁ600 billion to achieve this remarkable benefit.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

They attacked my credibility, my competence and me personally”
So nothing about the quality of his data, the appropriateness and reliability of analytical techniques he used or whether the results he obtained supported the conclusions he drew. Sound like a robust scientific peer review of the sort those who dare to question climate change dogma receive.

Tomislav Marjanović
Tomislav Marjanović
3 years ago

Whether it’s lab leak or not, is basically irrelevant, since the major problem is not the pandemic, but the plandemic.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
3 years ago

Not irrelevant, because similar labs exist in many places around the world, apparently, without a central overseeing authority and profit-based. Incredibly important to have oversight of this and bring in more stringent controls, and LIMIT what they do.

Corinne Michels
Corinne Michels
3 years ago

It should have been obvious to any molecular virologist reviewing the sequence of SARS-CoV2 in publications coming out in Feb/March 2020 that this virus was engineered in the lab. SARS-CoV2 is a sequence outlier of the beta-coronaviruses. It uniquely contains a 12 base insert in the spike protein gene not found in others of this group. Natural mutation in coronaviruses involves single base changes. The only mechanism for insertions is by recombination events that occur during replication of a single host cell. Such events require significant sequence identity between the recombining viral RNAs because the RNA replication enzyme must accidentally cross from one viral RNA to another viral RNA. If this had happened, the product viruses, like the parental viral RNAs, should be able to infect the host, presumably a bat. SARS-CoV2 cannot replicate in bats or any other host tested. Thus, the natural formation of this virus is not a reasonable explanation and any virologists knowledgeable about RNA viruses should have been able to confirm this in February 2020.
This is not the first viral pandemic to originate from China and will not be the last. The world face reality to stop the next one! It could easily be more deadly and difficult to treat.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

It uniquely contains a 12 base insert in the spike protein gene not found in others of this group.
The insert may be present in coronaviruses yet to be found, of which there are many.
Natural mutation in coronaviruses involves single base changes.
That appears to contradict your next sentence, “The only mechanism for insertions is by recombination events,” and recombination events are known to occur.
SARS-CoV2 cannot replicate in bats or any other host tested.
It replicates in mink at any rate, and it seems likely to do so in other mustelids:
SARS‐CoV‐2 spreads very efficiently within mink farms once introduced, by direct and indirect contact” – Monitoring of SARS‐CoV‐2 infection in mustelids, EFSA
we investigated and found that SARS-CoV-2 replicates efficiently in both the upper and lower respiratory tracts, and transmits efficiently in minks via respiratory droplets” – Replication, pathogenicity, and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in minks, NSR

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Glad to see someone has read the literature. Unfortunately when the horse has bolted with a zoonotic infection it then becomes impossible to tell whether the animal in which it was found was the originator, or whether it had acquired the virus from humans. Unless a laboratory somewhere holds up its hands, I doubt that the origin will ever be found.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Mochrie

Unless a laboratory somewhere holds up its hands, I doubt that the origin will ever be found.
I agree entirely, though finding bat coronaviruses with the 10% odd not in the currently known nearest matches might make natural origins, perhaps through recombination, seem more likely. (And in case you thought my comments about mink meant I think it originated in mink, that was not my point – I was responding to Corinne Michels’ “SARS-CoV2 cannot replicate in bats or any other host tested.” It can, but as you say, that does not mean it originated in mink.)

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago

“Natural mutation in coronaviruses involves single base changes”
Not necessarily see :
The coronavirus proofreading exoribonuclease mediates extensive viral recombination Gribble PLOS pathogens January 2021 (This research supported by a grant from the Dolly Parton Fund)  
Further gory details on This Week in Virology # 718 11.02.2021

Alan T
Alan T
3 years ago

Have Private Eye investigated this story at all? You’d think this kind of thing would be meat and drink to them. I looked online a little while ago, and it appeared there was mention of “lab leak” in their latest issue, but when I bought it it turned out they were just making a joke about it.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan T

Private Eye has, apparently, gone over to the dark side. It is very woke and unlikely to criticise the Chinese. This is despite the fact that even the uber woke New York Times has covered the lab leak hypothesis and not dismissed it.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Fraiser. You seem to think the anti Chinese stuff is driven by the unwoke and is a bottom up belief system. This is all stuff and nonsense. The writer here is full on establishment. It’s clear that the establishment wants to get one set of people riled up about China, just as they want another set of people to get riled up about Russia. Between the two set of zombies the deep state/military industrial complex get more of your tax dollars. Or euro. Or pounds.

Michael L
Michael L
3 years ago

Good article but by far not a full time line. The main effort against lab leak theory was/is lead by British Zoologist Peter Deszak who through the EcoHealth Alliance was channelling American taxpayers money into WIP to sponsor gain of function experiments. In March last year in the midst of pandemic he organised an article in Lancet stating that virus has natural origins. That article didn’t have any data behind it just words, however it was cited hundreds of times. Deszak continues to mislead the world recently has was included into WHO commission investigating the virus origins. Peter Deszak have to be investigated and not investigate!!!

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

Deszak might be a very dangerous person promoted well beyond his ability.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

This piece from the University Of Minnesota CIDRAP on the lifting of the Gain of Function moratorium by the US government is certainly worth a read.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2017/12/feds-lift-gain-function-research-pause-offer-guidance

Martin Tuite
Martin Tuite
3 years ago

Andrew Tatem, professor of geography and environmental science at the University of Southampton, and director of WorldPop, which maps population movements, estimates that had lockdowns been imposed on Wuhan three weeks earlier, there would have been a 95 per cent reduction in the number of cases in mainland China by the end of February.On 31 December 2019, the day before Huanan Seafood Market was closed and disinfected, Wuhan health officials announced that 27 people had become ill with ‘pneumonia of unknown origin’.Nine days later, the first person died of Covid-19: a 61-year-old man who had been a regular customer at the market. It would take authorities two days to announce it.Over the next few weeks, the Chinese government largely stayed silent. Wuhan officials hosted a lavish Chinese New Year banquet attended by tens of thousands of people. By 20 January, when President Xi Jinping finally made his first public comments about the virus, demanding ‘all-out’ efforts to handle it, infections had spread to Thailand, Japan and South Korea.The timing of the outbreak in Wuhan could not have been worse. Chinese New Year began on 25 January, when the nation’s 1.4 billion people travel to celebrate with friends and family. More than five million people had already left Wuhan for the week-long holiday.Daily Telegraph by Sophia Yan, China Correspondent and Mick Brown 23 January 2021China lied to its own people in January , claiming the virus was not infectious. Then it silenced doctors in Wuhan from telling the truth about the virus and Chinese Communist Party officials then ordered the destruction of laboratory samples, while insisting there was no contagion. (The Sunday Times Nov 15 2020).Times Nov 15 2020). Following all this the CCP pressurised the WHO into agreeing it was not a dangerous epidemic. Knowing all this it allowed thousands of Chinese to return after the New Year to work and study in Europe and elsewhere, thus unleashing a global epidemic.
Whether this was all by accident or design, you have to ask yourselves this: Who profits? The economies of the Western world are seriously damaged, confidence in governments shaken, there’s social instability, health systems at breaking point in many countries and there have been thousands of unavoidable deaths. And all without one bullet having been fired.
Sun Tzu the Chinese general, military strategist, author of The Art of War, would have been impressed. 

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago

I don’t think one had to be a conspiracy theorist, or a nutjob, to wonder at the coincidence of a virus appearing in a city with a large research lab.

John Alexander
John Alexander
3 years ago

IF .. and a big IF on the  existence of this virus.
There are claims from all directions about the existence and origins of a Virus called SARS. Yet all the international laboratories and the so-called Virologists have failed to prove the existence and show it to be true using the scientific methods. Germanies Robert Koch institute have still not answered questions related to SARS-COV1
The whole Covid 19 contrick is a Hoax of monumental proportions. The herd has stopped stampeding and they recovering their senses slowly, and one by one.
Questions that were asked and were ignored are being asked again by many specialists and doctors who did not support the proclamation of the WHO.
It is difficult for anyone that fell for the hoax to be honest. It is a huge embarrassment especially for the medical professionals who do not want their careers to be tarnished. I do not believe they ever will admit they were fooled. Their egos are too big. That is the unfortunate truth. It is not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. It is the first time though that so many fell hook line and sinker.
Governments and their health departments have enabled this hoax, many have already been rewarded and it has cost some leaders their lives. They have resorted to lying to their electorates.
It can only be stopped by the Citizens. Governments are now clearly at WAR with their citizens. We see this by the egregious drastic and draconian measures and brutality being metered out to many of those who are innocent of any crime and those that actually put the Governments in power. TAKE back your rights from these corrupted servants. That is what they are SERVANTS of the people.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  John Alexander

And what do you imagine killed more than eight thousand whose deaths were attributed to SARS?

Shuvabrata Nandi
Shuvabrata Nandi
3 years ago

If this is journalism – I don’t know what propaganda looks like 🙂 Amusing i must say.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago

Perhaps there only is and only ever was propaganda in the world?

Ramon Wyss
Ramon Wyss
3 years ago

Please get serious. Article smells fake long way – will not help the world to understand the origin nor help us to fight the next pandemic.

Anne-Marie Mazur
Anne-Marie Mazur
3 years ago

Propaganda. Unsubstantiated, flat out propaganda, including the “death count” which is in complete contradiction to other articles from this outlet.
The West is gearing up for war against the East in the ongoing imperialist nightmare the tax payers fund and the useful idiots are all lining up to be the mouthpieces of their respective states on behalf of the RICH- to rob and control other nations. And to see people have the nerve to talk about “totalitarian” regimes being elsewhere is laughable. I absolutely LUV my “democracy” here in the US, with military based covering the entire planet, interference in other nations, funding military coups to set up puppet regimes and our prison system being the largest ever in the world. It’s HILARIOUS.
European imperialism murdered hundreds of millions for centuries, including removing the Native Americans and they too, have the nerve to point fingers at other “totalitarian” regimes while they, with the US illegally invade foreign nations up to….right now. Spectacular cognitive dissonance or just straight up lying. In the age of information, I can’t see it being ignorance.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago

Perhaps we do not educate our children in real politic anymore? There has only ever been struggle for power and resources, often purely for the sake of vanity. Monkey behaviour adapted to situations for which it never evolved and no satiation mechanism to tell people when they have enough power, or resources. Winning is the only game in town.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago

And the Chinese building up their military for what purpose? The US military is constrained by an open budget, not so the Chinese. Who is threatening the Chinese?

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago

More fake news. China/CCP is better understood as model or business partner than rival. According to US banker and whistleblower Catherine Austin Fitts, in dialogue with Reiner Fuellmich’s Corona Investigative Committee, CCP/US/UK oligarchs are allies in war against their own populations.

According to WHO website Covid infection fatality rate for under 70s: .05%. Official figures contradicting their own propaganda.

Covid racket sustained only by lying media. UnHerd possibly the most duplicitous of the lot, though there’s little to choose between any of them on “Covid, Climate, and Racial Justice: the three great issues of our time”, to quote globalist capi Larry Fink, CEO BlackRock Inc and Agenda Contributor WEF.

Last edited 3 years ago by Sean L
Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean L

Little to choose between Unherd and the Communist Party of China? I expect most readers and contributors will be somewhat surprised by this revelation.

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Either WHO infection fatality rate figures are false or media including this article and everything about Covid on UnHerd is lies. Those seeling truth will find it via Reiner Fuelmich’s Corona Investigative Committee. CCP/UK/US oligarchs are partners in crime. Blaming China is fake news, assuming the detailed allegations of Reiner Fuellmich and various whistleblowers reporting to his Corona Committte in Berlin aren’t invention. One thing we know with certainty is that none of the allegations of criminal activity at the highest levels are reported by any officially approved media outlet.

conall boyle
conall boyle
3 years ago

“a country ruled by fear” or a country with the most-trusted (by the people) Government in the World?
This whole article looks like a case of 2 + 2 = 22

Waldo Warbler
Waldo Warbler
3 years ago
Reply to  conall boyle

Ah yes, Xin, I see you studied the piece carefully.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
3 years ago
Reply to  conall boyle

I’d be fearful if “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” could land you in prison. And so should you.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago
Reply to  conall boyle

With your kind assistance they are doing a better job of covering the origins of this Xi flu than they did the blood for cash AIDS scandal.

Auberon Linx
Auberon Linx
3 years ago

I find this distinction between natural and lab-based origin of the pandemic a little baffling. What is beyond any doubt was that we have a case of a naturally occurring virus that has, through inadvertent human agency, spread globally. Whether the humans in question were scientists or civilians seems to me, perhaps naively, completely beside the point. Now there is much more awareness of both zoonotic and laboratory sources as possible origins of pandemics. Although we will never know it, the resulting tightened security, and the substantially higher public understanding of infectious diseases might prevent much worse viruses from emerging.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

How can the origin be beside the point? Knowing the source can only help to prevent or mitigate against future outbreaks Plus we know that China is not simply hiding the source, but other critical information as well. And of course the nefarious actions of the WHO as part of this tawdry tale, need to be fully uncovered and exposed.

Auberon Linx
Auberon Linx
3 years ago

We already knew that contact with animal reservoirs and labs working with viruses were high risk situations. This will not change depending on which of the two was the actual origin of Covid-19. There have been attempts to regulate wet markets, but this will not happen due to complex societal factors. It is not likely that scientists will stop working with viruses either, and though safety can be managed, breaches will sooner or later happen even in well-managed facilities (thankfully most likely with negligible consequences).
I would like to hear more about the supposedly nefarious actions of WHO. They have certainly been incompetent which is certainly bad, but I am not aware of them doing anything immoral or actively harmful.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

I think the wet market theory has been debunked. And the blame for this can be traced to the west who built the lab in question for the Chinese. The Chinese had no capability to do experiments on viruses before.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

Gain of function should be stopped. There are way too many risks involved. They expect us to ‘trust’ the people in these labs to be morally aware of just how much is at risk for humanity but humans are humans and anything can happen – intentionally or accidental.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

actively harmful” They said no human-human transmission, then stopping international travel is bad. Agree about incompetent, not clear regarding purpose behind the announcements given data uncertainties at the time. .

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

If the lab leak hypothesis is correct, which most sensible people have believed to be the case for almost a year now, then it is not a ‘naturally occurring virus’. Instead, it is a consequence of Gain of Function research in which viruses are artificially created or manipulated. This research was defunded in the US, at which point the funding was, allegedly redirected to China. This was enabled, allegedly, by one Dr Fauci.

Sam Cel Roman
Sam Cel Roman
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It wasn’t “allegedly” enabled by Dr. Fauci, it is a proven fact.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam Cel Roman

Well I’m just covering myself and UnHerd from legal action and/or cancellation etc.

Nick Harvey
Nick Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam Cel Roman

Can you point to evidence of this please?

Auberon Linx
Auberon Linx
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

There was a report on a naturally occurring coronavirus sequence similar to Covid-19, which is why non-lab leak origin is still the more mainstream hypothesis, although the lab leak one is clearly gaining prominence. However, if the source of the pandemic was indeed escape of a genetically manipulated virus variant, I still do not think there is a particular moral to be attached to the situation. As you note, this kind of work was until recently relatively common in the rest of the world, and research facilities in parts of the world that are not China are still major safety risks (please see Peter Frankopan’s Prospect article from several months ago for a good overview).
Not that I think it is uninteresting to know more about the source of the pandemic. But it seems to me that people are after a heroes and villains narrative which in reality will not be there whichever version of events is correct. Whatever the root cause is, it will not bring meaning to a senseless plague, nor provide a key to ending it.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

The big finding from the WHO investigation was the existence of this extensive, established food chain originating in domestic wildlife animal farms in Southern China (including Yunnan where these coronaviruses of interest were first spotted).
These are mixed domestic / wild animal farms breeding civets, bamboo rats, coypu, water rats, ferret badgers and racoon dogs (to mention a few). These are the same animals that were infected during the SARS outbreak notably ferret badgers, civets and raccoon dogs.
These farms generally have dense populations of animals and are not biosecure. Swaps occur between farms. The animals are sold alive because they are deemed fresher that way. Animals that are left unsold at the end of the day go straight to restaurants at night. (See BBC Radio 4 Inside Science 11.02.2021)
At the moment my money would be on a zoonotic spillover (as was the case with SARS and MERS) with someone dropping a flask with some culture medium in it, or selling off some spare animals from the lab in Wuhan, as a distant second.

Graeme Mochrie
Graeme Mochrie
3 years ago

I wouldn’t bet on being able to find the origin of anything now. You can’t rule out zoonotic transmission from humans to wild populations. Origin is now an insoluble unless there is a biological sample in a freezer that predates the outbreak.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

If the lab leak hypothesis is correct … then it is not a ‘naturally occurring virus’. Instead, it is a consequence of Gain of Function research
That does not follow. It’s just as possible a naturally occurring, unaltered virus escaped from a lab.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

But since the bat virus was deliberately brough from a thinly populated part of China to a heavily populated city, I would call that a ‘gain of function’ where the gain is increased risk of accidental infection.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

the bat virus was deliberately brough
You’re assuming it was, as well as wilfully mangling the meaning of gain of function.

George Wells
George Wells
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

If it came out of a lab, it is someone’s fault – one or several people – trained professonals who failed.
If it was tweaked in the lab, it is not naturally occurring.
If it came from a market, it is someone’s fault, but it is easier to argue ignorance on the part of the vendors, but not of general principles of food safety. I would in that case be more inclined to apportion blame to the market regulators.
The author writes ‘Science should follow the train of evidence’. Yes. Where is the evidence?

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  George Wells

Ask the CCP who have covered it up.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

How can the presumption that this is a “naturally occurring virus” spread through “inadvertent human agency” possible be “beyond any doubt”? I’d be interested to see your proof.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago

There’s nothing in this piece but dubious links and typical neo-conservative word formulas. Stooge this. Regime that. I’m surprised the mullahs didn’t get a mention. Then there’s the plausible deniability bit.

Most scientists have said that the virus was not man made, man made viruses have signatures, and the evidence is weak, not least because a man made virus would be more potent. Killing 1% of the population and no young people isn’t a good policy for warfare.

David Hartlin
David Hartlin
3 years ago

Gain of function can be achieved simply by isolating hosts and transmitting a virus via a swab forcing the virus to adapt.

Paul Savage
Paul Savage
3 years ago

And of course, inducing all your competitors to destroy their own economies is a hopeless strategy for economic warfare. Oh wait….

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Savage

Western companies were happy and eager to move production to China. Their strategy was equally one of economic warfare against workers in their own countries.

Paul Savage
Paul Savage
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

The fact that Western corporates collaborate with China’s totalitarian regime in no way refutes my point that China’s global competitors were induced to wreck their own economies in response to the virus and that it is entirely credible that the release of the virus was an economic warfare strategy by China.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Savage

If Western governments and economic systems allowed Western companies to be induced, perhaps we should look closer to home for solutions. Expecting competitors not to compete seems rather futile.

Paul Savage
Paul Savage
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

I’m not defending Western Governments nor Western corporates. Read the comment by Franz Von Peppercorn to which I was responding. He argues that the virus was not man made because it was not deadly enough for biological warfare. I simply reply that it is supremely effective as an agent of economic warfare and therefore could well have been engineered and released as such. There are many reasons to criticize the governments and corporates of the West but none of them have anything to do with whether or not China engineered a virus which was then perhaps used as an agent of economic warfare. You’re arguing against a point that I’m not making.
Expecting competitors not to compete is indeed unreasonable but expecting them to refrain from unleashing a virus in order to close down your economy seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul Savage
Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Savage

I didn’t read your comments carefully. I took “And of course, inducing all your competitors to destroy their own economies is a hopeless strategy for economic warfare” to be an observation on the outsourcing of jobs over recent decades and so on. My apologies.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Paul Savage
Paul Savage
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Thanks for such a gracious acknowledgment. Rare these days and genuinely appreciated.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Greed has no limits. Besides wasn’t international trade supposed to make war less possible?

steve eaton
steve eaton
3 years ago

Man-made is not the same as made for weaponizing. Another reason to accelerate the evolution of the virus is to have a leg up on developing vaccines and verifying the likely changes needed as the virus mutates.. Especially with a virus like a Corona Virus that is pretty easily mutated.
I don’t think many are claiming that it was an engineered virus released as a weapon, only that poor safety procedures caused a virus under study to be let loose.

Last edited 3 years ago by steve eaton
Toby Josh
Toby Josh
3 years ago
Reply to  steve eaton

Exactly. An entirely plausible state of affairs, utterly dismissed as contemptuous conspiracy theory this time last year – and beyond.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
3 years ago

It’s interesting that China, with its previous one-child policy, is presumably highly invested in keeping its youth alive, while not nearly so interested in the continual survival of its elderly population. I keep telling myself that this is a stupid suspicion, and that lab researchers would surely not be able to modify a virus so that it was often fatal to the elderly but rarely to the young. I’m about as far removed from being a biochemist as it’s possible to be, but the thought won’t go away.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

It is fatal to people with raised co morbidities Those people generally older people have raised plasminogen levels which the virus cleaves and infects and not just the ACE2 receptors

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Martin

Plasminogen is an extracellular protein. How does it get infected by a virus which requires cells in which to replicate?

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Interesting that China has no government mandated social safety net to bother about.

Richard C
Richard C
3 years ago

We are expected be believe an architect, a bank worker and others, using google are such able super-sleuths? Really, April Fools’ Day has passed us by.
I will reserve judgement until the sources of the information quoted are confirmed as independent and accurate before believing the article in any way. It seems very convenient to dredge this potato up just now and has identical hallmarks of the various fraudulent “Bellingcat” articles authored by UK and US secret services. “Drastic” is just Bellingcat rebranded.
The US and allies’ objective hasn’t changed with a new government. It is still at war with China and any dissenters to US hegemony, so will be quite happy to continue using their rather successful weapon against their own populations; that is to feed misinformation to direct citizens’ thinking.
In a few months / years cool heads will track the source of leaks (viral and journalistic) and then I’ll decide who to believe. Although Mr Birrell may have written in good faith, I won’t consider his article as trustworthy – it just smells too much like other rotten propaganda.

edit. I became a super-sleuth myself with the brief help of the web. I see Ian Birrell was a speech writer for David Cameron (adds to his credibility, eh?)…… and has a recent interest in Rwanda…. read an opinion of him. https://www.newtimes.co.rw/opinions/ian-birrell-needs-stop-fooling-himself,. Seems Bellingcat found a suitable dupe.
His article is going on the compost heap.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard C
Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard C

“In a few months / years cool heads will track the source of leaks (viral and journalistic) and then I’ll decide who to believe”
By what process will these “cool heads” track down the source of the Virus? China has done everything it can to delay, obstruct, obfuscate and corrupt any attempts to investigate on the ground in Wuhan. What is magically going to change now so that the truth will finally be revealed?

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard C

I will reserve judgement until the sources of the information quoted are confirmed as independent and accurate before believing the article in any way.

So until then you’re happy to accept the line promoted by the Chinese Communist Party, that beacon of openness and truth?
Talk about “a suitable dupe”.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Kreff

Or a Chinese shill. I’ve never seen a number of the BTL commentators here today, but they’re all wading in defence of the CCP. Funny, that.

Alan T
Alan T
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard C

What on earth are you on about?
If anything being claimed by Drastic (or anyone else) is false, it can be disproved easily enough, and there are plenty who will be keen to do so.
It appears you are dismissing what they are saying not on the basis of any evidence, but because you have a political theory of your own which you put before the evidence.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard C

It certainly came from the institute of virology in Wuhan as is as plane as the nose on your face. The only question is did the evil Xi release it deliberately or is it just normal CCP shoddiness.

Mint Julip
Mint Julip
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

I’ve always believed that the virus was being experimented on in the Wuhan lab, and some lab animals were destined for destruction (as happens in labs, unfortunately) and a technician took said animals to the nearby wet market for extra dosh. That’s my hypothesis, and I’m sticking to it!

Fiona Que
Fiona Que
3 years ago
Reply to  Mint Julip

Side hustle with a difference – er, side hustle that made a difference. In South Africa, where I live, this would be a completely plausible hypothesis.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard C

It is illuminating to learn that you believe something from Birrell to be untrustworthy, while the information you look forward to coming from a country tightly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party to be the final truth.
As an illustration of the quality of information to be expected, note that the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in China has life-threatening consequences. Such a law wouldn’t go down well with your average British commentator.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard C

at war with China” – Ah yes, the trade imbalance is solid evident that the opening of China in the late 70’s by that awful US was a desire to create corruption in China by their new billionaires.