May 20, 2021 - 3:00pm

The so-called lab-leak hypothesis for the origins of Covid-19 has been gaining more and more traction in recent months. Once dismissed as a crankish fringe theory, it has slowly been entering into mainstream scientific discussion. Just this week, America’s CDC Director said that it was ‘possible’ that Covid could have leaked from a lab as ‘significant circumstantial evidence’ emerges. 

One analyst who has made a significant contribution to the debate is Nicholas Wade, a former reporter at the New York Times, who recently self-published a piece detailing how the lab-leak theory isn’t just a possibility, it is (in his view) the most likely explanation. Though there is no definitive evidence for either theory, Wade argues that the key details are easier to explain within the context of a lab leak origin, as he tells Freddie Sayers on LockdownTV:

The whole idea [of the natural emergence theory] rests on a single conjecture: that it followed in the track of SARS-1 and MERS, and the many other viruses that have jumped from animals. But there is no direct evidence for natural emergence…There is no trace of SARS-2 emerging in the natural environment in the same pattern as SARS-1. 
- Nicholas Wade, UnHerd

On the the lack of evidence: 

When the WHO commission went to Beijing it seemed at first sight a propaganda victory for the Chinese because they kept on saying, “well, lab escape is ridiculous, we’re hardly going to even consider it”. What was also clear was that the Chinese had not been able to provide a shred of evidence in favour of the natural emergence hypothesis. So each month that goes by and you have no more evidence of natural emergence theory that makes you have to consider the lab escape hypothesis more strongly.
- Nicholas Wade, UnHerd

On the Chinese cover-up:

The Chinese authorities are controlling very carefully all information that comes out. So basically, they’ve put a seal on all information
 all Chinese databases concerning bat viruses have been made inaccessible… I think there’s a sort of pattern to what the Chinese authorities are doing. And this means because they’re locking down all information in general, I think it’s not illogical to assume that all the information they do put out is really for a purpose. 
- Nicholas Wade, UnHerd

Why won’t virologists speak out?

It would have been very dangerous for them. Because unfortunately, we don’t have free speech on academic campuses anymore. And for virologists, their careers depend on being awarded grants by other virologists. The way grants are distributed both in the US and the UK, is through a peer review committee of expert virologists who review the grant applications from other virologists. So if you step out of line, and if you say that SARS-2 may have escaped from the lab, then good luck on getting your grant renewed. 
- Nicholas Wade, UnHerd

On Facebook’s role:

Facebook’s behaviour has been quite amazing. It’s almost as if they’re under the control of the Chinese government because my article also had a message directing readers to a Chinese propaganda site. I was quite astounded that Facebook would behave in this way. And it shows the severe limitations of its present system for addressing the content it carries.
- Nicholas Wade, UnHerd

How did the lab leak happen?

Scientists were trying to get a jump ahead of nature by trying to predict what tweaks might be needed to make an animal virus a human pathogen. So they tried to recapitulate these steps in the lab, which is highly dangerous. If you succeed, then you’ve got a dangerous pathogen. 
- Nicholas Wade, UnHerd

On the so-called ‘Bat Lady’, Dr Shi Zhengli:

She’s well known in China for collecting these bat viruses, which she’s been doing for 20 years or so. During the course of her work on these bat viruses, she went to work with Ralph Baric in North Carolina, who’s the leading American expert on coronaviruses. He had developed a technique of transferring spike proteins from one virus to another to make them more infective for the purpose of trying to predict future outbreaks. So she and Baric published a paper in 2015, in which they generated a novel virus. Scientists call this a chimera, because it’s a mixture of two genomes. They generated a chimera virus that had the property of infecting humans. 
- Nicholas Wade, UnHerd