Chinese scientists secretly found a virus strain similar to COVID-19 in an abandoned mine in 2013, but kept the discovery secret, according to a shocking new report.
A Sunday Times investigation claims that the closest “strain” linked to the coronavirus was discovered in a mine infested with bats and rats in 2013 and was stored for years in a virology laboratory in Wuhan.
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The discovery of a strain, made seven years ago in the copper mine in southwest China, would be the most powerful lead to date in the search for the beginning of the pandemic.
It was discovered after six men were struck in 2012 with fever, cough and pneumonia, half of them fatally, after working in the mine shaft.
The report says that four of the men tested positive for anti-coronavirus antibodies – but two died before they could be tested.
Dr. Shi Zhengli – nicknamed “bat woman” by colleagues at the Wuhan Institute of Virology – in February co-authored the most comprehensive academic paper on the new coronavirus to date.
In addition to giving a full genetic description of the virus, Dr. Shi’s article – published in Nature – revealed that the WIV harbored a bat sample named RaTG13, claiming that it corresponded to 96.2% with COVID- 19.
But one of Dr. Shi’s longtime colleagues alleged that the RaTG13 sample was found in the mine in 2013, but information about the sister virus was not shared.
The news comes after Donald Trump in April said he had a “high level of confidence” that COVID-19 came from the Wuhan Virology Institute after seeing evidence.
He added that the American authorities “were looking at this very, very strongly”, saying: “We will see where it is – we will see where it comes from. There are many theories. China could even tell us. “
The president announced in June that he would refuse to fund the World Health Organization (WHO) to manage the virus epidemic, in which they welcomed China’s attempts to “contain” the virus.
But after recent pressure from WHO, China must launch an investigation into allegations that the virus may have leaked from Wuhan’s laboratory.
The institute – the world’s largest infectious disease research laboratory – has reportedly conducted high-risk experiments to increase the infectivity of coronaviruses to understand the mechanisms that could cause a pandemic.
The newspaper said the researchers collected hundreds of coronavirus samples from remote areas of China and brought them back to the city.
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However, the Wuhan Institute says the experiments were abandoned because they didn’t think the strain was close enough to the Sars virus.
However, scientists have questioned the likelihood of this scenario.
Nikolai Petrovsky of Flinders University in Adelaide told The Times, “If you really thought you had a new virus that had caused an epidemic that killed humans, there is nothing you would not do – given that that was their reason for being [there] – get to the bottom of it, even if it meant exhausting the sample and then come back for more. “
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