Truth Tracker: There is no scientific evidence that COVID-19 was manufactured in a Chinese laboratory

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TORONTO –
Despite new reports that US officials are investigating the possibility that the coronavirus was secretly made in a Chinese laboratory, there is no scientific evidence to support these theories.

Scientists who have studied the virus have already dispelled these rumors and have instead identified bats as the most likely source, suggesting that COVID-19 was created by nature, not humans.

At its molecular level, the genetic makeup of the virus closely resembles that which already exists in horseshoe bats in the Chinese province of Hunan. The discovery, which is supported by several independent studies, is not entirely surprising. Bats have an unusually high capacity to harbor viruses and have been linked to past epidemics, including SARS, MERS and Ebola.

Scientists believe the virus has spread from bats to an intermediate animal – perhaps stray dogs, snakes or pangolins – before infecting humans. The fact that the first cases of COVID-19 were linked to a live animal market in Wuhan that sold exotic species only reinforces this research.

More directly, a team of American, British and Australian researchers categorically rejected the idea that the virus was somehow made in the laboratory.

An article published last month in the journal Nature Medicine revealed that the virus, when tested by computer simulations, does not seem to bind well to human cells. The researchers determined that if someone wanted to create a dangerous virus that could spread among humans, their own simulations would show that the virus simply wouldn’t work.

“Our analyzes clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a deliberately manipulated virus,” the researchers wrote in the article.

Unfounded online rumors, which started on far-right websites and were stirred up by American politicians such as Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton, point out that Wuhan is home to a high-security disease laboratory infectious who studied coronaviruses and bats.

CTV News science and technology specialist Dan Riskin said it was not unusual for the laboratory to conduct such research. China has been studying coronaviruses and bats since the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s.

“I think it shows us that scientists knew it was going to happen. Of course, they were studying bats. Of course, they were studying coronaviruses. People have been screaming out of their lungs for years that a coronavirus epidemic is coming, “Riskin told CTVNews.ca, highlighting warnings of an epidemic from former US President Barack Obama, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci and former President George W. Bush.

“It’s not because they planned to unleash it on humans. It’s because they were trying to save us. “

THE POLITICAL ANGLE

Even top American intelligence officials have questioned the theory that the virus is of human origin.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon’s chief general, General Mark Milley, said the United States had considered the possibility that COVID-19 may have been manufactured in a laboratory after noticing “many rumors and speculation.”

“A lot of intelligence” has examined the theory, said Milley, and has found that “the weight of the evidence” is on the side of scientists who say the virus started naturally.

However, Milley did not go so far as to offer a definitive answer.

“We don’t know for sure,” he said.

On Wednesday, one day after the general’s comments, US President Donald Trump was asked about a potential theory, first reported by Fox News citing several unnamed sources, that the patient zero was a laboratory worker. Wuhan who spread the virus to the general population.

CNN later reported a version of the story, suggesting that US officials are investigating the possibility, but that it is too early to draw conclusions.

“More and more, we are hearing the story … we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation,” Trump said of the news.

The United States has the highest COVID-19 record in the world and the highest number of cases, and Trump – who dubbed the virus the “Chinese virus” – has repeatedly accused China of the epidemic.

Earlier this week, Trump accused the WHO of not “calling on China’s lack of transparency” in the early days of the epidemic and canceled billions of dollars in funding for the United Nations health agency. United.

Wayne Petrozzi, professor emeritus of politics at Ryerson University, said there were legitimate reasons to be skeptical of China’s response. Reports suggest that the Chinese government censored social media words at the start of the epidemic, and in the early 2000s China concealed the infamy of SARS, going as far as hiding patients from investigators WHO.

Petrozzi said it was important not to confuse the real concerns about China’s lack of transparency with unfounded rumors that the virus was made by humans.

“This is a problem that is separate and apart from some absurd conspiracy theories about a biological weapon escaping from a laboratory by mistake,” he said.

Trump has so far not bluntly accused China of manufacturing COVID-19 in a laboratory. But with the president’s re-election this fall, Petrozzi said he was concerned that blame for the virus would be increasingly imposed on China – a country that Trump repeatedly slammed during the 2016 campaign.

“It will only get worse, because what is there to lose? “

Chinese scientists said the virus came from the Wuhan wet market. But some Chinese politicians have launched their own unsubstantiated rumor, suggesting that the virus originated in the United States and was introduced into China, possibly by the United States military.

Lijian Zhao, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted a report that claimed to offer “new evidence” that the virus started in the United States. The report was published on a website filled with lies, including 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Under the supervision of Michael Stittle, producer of CTVNews.ca

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