We all know that COVID started over in Wuhan, China. However, the exact origins were, up until this week, mostly speculation. With some theorists believing it was a move of international warfare, some people thought it was a mistake in a biology lab, and others believed the much more common theory that it originated in a wet market.
So did COVID come from a lab? Here’s the latest information.
What are the theories?
The generally accepted and published theory is that the virus originated somehow in a wet market (a market selling fish, meat and live wild animals) in Huanan.
The most controversial theory is that the virus began at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is one of China’s top research labs. This was propagated by Donald Trump when he called the virus the ‘Chinese virus’, and just generally fed into the conspiracy.
The US national intelligence director at the time also said that while the virus was not man-made or genetically modified, they were still researching potentially suspicious origins.
What does science say?
However, this week, the World Health Organisation has announced some of its findings after doing an inquiry into the cause of the virus. Following their inquiry, the head of WHO (World Health Organization) Peter Ben Embarek, has said that it is “extremely unlikely” that the virus leaked from a lab, as well as that there is “no indication” of any cases prior to December 2019. The investigation will now focus on South East Asia, according to others in the organisation.
Wuhan is in China’s central Hubei province and was the first place to detect the virus in 2019. WHO took to China to try and find more information about the virus, in order to help track and predict the patterns the virus may take or has taken. Dr Embarek told a press conference that WHO’s investigation has uncovered new information, but nothing dramatic.
So where did it come from?
The experts are still working to find the origins of the virus, which has linked itself to bats. However, similar to other historic outbreaks, it is likely there is an intermediary species which has helped the virus cross from bats to humans.
Research is now also being done into the supply chains of frozen food – known as “cold chain” transmission. They are investigating the sources of these chains which originate in South East Asian countries. When asked about it, Dr Pete Daszak from WHO said:
“We’ve done a lot of work in China and if you map that back it starts to point towards the border and we know that there is very little surveillance on the other side in the whole region of South East Asia. China is a very big place and South East Asia is a very big place. The supply chains to the Huanan seafood market were extensive, they were coming in from other countries, they were coming in from various parts of China, so to really trace that back, it’s going to take some work.”
So what we know so far is that whilst the virus has originated over in Asia, there really is no reason to believe claims of malicious intent. Hopefully, our scientists will figure out where it is this virus came from sooner rather than later.