A top microbiologist believes a full investigation into the origins of COVID-19 is the only way to avoid repeat pandemics in the coming years and must be done with China’s full cooperation.
Peter Hotez, a professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, added his weight to calls for a thorough and transparent probe to determine whether the virus leaked from a lab or came from animals.
‘There’s going to be COVID-26 and COVID-32 unless we fully understand the origins of COVID-19,’ Hotez said on Meet The Press Sunday.
A growing consensus of scientists and commentators now believe the virus is man-made and may have accidentally leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The theory that COVID-19 had come from a lab was promoted by Republicans including Senator Tom Cotton, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump from the earliest days of the pandemic in spring 2020.
But it has only just begun to be taken seriously by many pundits and scientists, after extensive testing has failed to trace the origins of the virus to a single animal species.
Last week President Joe Biden said he would release an intelligence report into the origins of COVID-19 within 90 days.
China has aggressively resisted attempts to form an independent team of international investigators to look into the virus origin, and dismissed the lab leak as a conspiracy theory.
Peter Hotez, a professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, added his weight to calls for a thorough and transparent probe to determine whether the virus leaked from a lab or came from animals
A meat vendor wearing a face mask waits for a customer at a market in Wuhan, on April 2, 2020, after the city experienced more than two months of near total isolation for its population of 11 million. The theory that the virus originated from animals is no longer thought to be as likely as a lab leak
Hotez said coming to firm conclusions about how the virus emerged was ‘absolutely essential’ in preventing future pandemics.
The intelligence community had done everything it could to figure out whether the virus originated in the wild or was a lab leak, Hotez said.
‘What we need to do is we need to do an outbreak investigation.
‘We need a team of scientists, of epidemiologists, virologists, bat ecologists in Hubei province for a six-month… to year-long period and fully unravel the origins of Covid-19.
‘That includes collecting virus samples and blood samples from domestic livestock, from bats, from laboratory animals. It means doing the same for people living in the endemic area.’
Hotez said he had spent time in the Hubei province where the coronavirus originated from.
‘It’s this vast mixing bowl… of goats and pigs and ducks and chickens and a high-population density. That’s why all the influenza viruses often arise out of China as well. And so we’ve got to figure this out.’
Republican Texas Rep. Mike McCaul believes it’s ‘more likely than not’ COVID came from the Wuhan lab and has accused China of the ‘worst cover-up in human history’
Meanwhile, Republican Texas Rep. Mike McCaul believes it’s ‘more likely than not’ COVID came from the Wuhan lab and has accused China of the ‘worst cover-up in human history’.
McCaul told CNN’s State of the Union that President Biden’s investigation was ‘long overdue’ but fears it may turn up nothing because scientists have ‘destroyed everything at the lab.
He also called for the US to stop buying medical products from China as members of both the Democrats and Republicans called for a congressional investigation into the origins of COVID.
‘If we can pull these chains out of China, it will hurt them economically,’ McCaul said. ‘And that would be very punitive in nature.’ The Senate has already adopted a measure from Republican Joni Ernst that would prohibit U.S. funding from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also said Sunday that accidental lab leaks ‘happen all the time’.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who served as then-President Trump’s FDA commission from 2017 until 2019, said on Sunday that the likelihood COVID-19 originated in a lab is growing while the odds that the coronavirus was transmitted from animals to humans grow longer
COVID patients fill the Wuhan Fang Cang makeshift hospital in February 2020. Last week it was revealed that lab workers had tested positive for the virus in 2019
Gottlieb, who served as then-President Trump’s FDA commission from 2017 until 2019, also told CBS News that evidence that the virus came from the lab is expanding.
‘And a side of the ledger that suggests that this could have come from a zoonotic source, come out of nature, really hasn’t budged.’
Gottlieb said that there is enough evidence to rule out the earlier theory that coronavirus originated from a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan.
Gottlieb added: ‘And if anything, you can argue that that side of the ledger has contracted because we’ve done an exhaustive search for the so-called intermediate host, the animal that could have been exposed to this virus before it spread to humans.
‘We have not found such an animal.’
Jon Karl told ABC This Week host Martha Raddatz on Sunday that he thinks reporters ‘have egg on their face’ for originally refusing to consider the lab leak theory
It came after liberal media reporters and pundits admitted over the weekend they were wrong to dismiss the Wuhan lab leak theory just because it was espoused by former President Donald Trump.
Mainstream reporters had pushed back at the idea that COVID-19 may have originated in a virology lab in Wuhan, China, and openly ridiculed the idea as Trump spoke openly about it in the early days of the pandemic.
But now, those same reporters have admitted that it is possible that the virus came from a lab leak — as more scientists and political officials openly question the virus’ origins.
‘I think a lot of people have egg on their face,’ ABC News’ Jonathan Karl told Martha Raddatz Sunday morning.
‘This was an idea that was first put out by Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, [and] President Donald Trump,’ he continued on ABC’s This Week, ‘and some things may be true even if Donald Trump has said them.’
He noted that the idea was widely dismissed at the time, but now ‘serious people are saying it needs a serious inquiry.’
New York Times reporter David Leonhardt also said on CNN that he thinks people ‘leapt to dismiss’ the theory too quickly because it was being espoused by then-President Trump and Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who has also said that the 2020 election was stolen.
‘I think a lot of people on the political left and people in the media made this mistake and said ‘Wow, if Tom Cotton is saying something it can’t be true,’ Leonhardt said. ‘Or they assumed that. And that’s not right.
The lab leak theory has gained traction over the past few weeks, as more and more politicians and scientists start to question the origins of the virus and how it mutated to infect humans.
The Huanan wet market, where scientists say the first cluster of infections were officially reported, is just a few hundred yards from the Wuhan Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and only a few miles from the the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab, where scientists were reportedly conducting experiments on bats before the pandemic began.
The lab is one of only a handful in the world that is cleared to handle Class 4 pathogens — dangerous viruses that pose a high risk of person-to-person transmission.
Three researchers from the institute sought medical care in November 2019, before the virus began to spread, according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal.