This pandemic’s precise origins may never be certain. We must address both zoonotic transmission risks and lab security
When something goes terribly wrong, it is human instinct to look for the human hand – perhaps to reassure ourselves that life is not wholly beyond our control. As the flu pandemic reached the US just over a century ago, some blamed German agents. So it wasn’t surprising when people claimed that coronavirus had leaked from – or was even manufactured in – a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. Nor was it surprising when Donald Trump and his allies promoted the story as they sought to pass the buck for the mounting death toll in the US and embellish the then president’s China-hawk credentials.
It is more striking that the idea is suddenly gaining ground. Last month, Joe Biden ordered his intelligence agencies to intensify their efforts to study Covid’s origins; one reportedly leans towards the lab hypothesis, though others in the US and abroad disagree. Now, a leaked draft communique from the G7 summit in Cornwall has said that leaders will call for a new World Health Organization investigation into the pandemic’s beginnings. More scientists have suggested that the idea should be taken seriously.
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