Important clues about role of Wuhan seafood market and coronavirus spread found

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Top scientists probing the origins of COVID-19 say they have found “important clues” about the role of a Wuhan seafood market in the coronavirus outbreak, Sky News (AU) Reports.

Investigators are attempting to determine where it came from and how it was allowed to spread.

A team of 14 experts are wrapping up their investigation and will depart China later this week and release their findings before Thursday.

News outlets reports that Zoologist Peter Daszak revealed the 14-member group had worked with experts in China and visited key hotspots and research centers to uncover “some real clues about what happened”.

And the US-based Brit expert added his trip to the Huanan market in central Wuhan proved particularly useful and showed signs of people leaving in a “hurry.”

He added that evidence has been found about the origins of the virus and is now being “pieced together.”

Last week, the expert admitted the origins of the Covid pandemic could have leaked from a lab in Wuhan despite previously dismissing the theory as “pure baloney”.

Investigators have also found “important clues” about the market’s role, according to Daszak.

Matt Ridley and Alina Chan, a science writer who has written about viruses on and off for 35 years, and a post-doctoral researcher at a top institute, on The Telegraph wrote that “we initially had little doubt that this would prove to be a natural phenomenon. Mother Nature is a better genetic engineer than human beings will ever be, and the opportunities for viruses to infect human beings are legion, especially where the live-wildlife trade flourishes. Yet now we are not so sure. Evidence for a natural spillover has not emerged. Nor has evidence for a laboratory accident. But details of the research done by a laboratory in Wuhan on closely related viruses, and of the secrecy surrounding it, have grown increasingly hard to dismiss.”

Last month, the US State Department, under the Trump administration, released an explosive statement saying that it had ‘reason to believe that several researchers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses’. The institute is China’s foremost research centre for such diseases and holds a database of more than 20,000 pathogen samples from wild animals across the country, mostly bats and rodents. ‘For more than a year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the Covid-19 pandemic’s origin, choosing instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation,’ it added. A team of World Health Organization investigators is currently in Wuhan, but on terms set by China’s government.

On 30 December 2019, Chinese Virologist Dr Shi was at a conference in Shanghai when she heard of an outbreak of infectious pneumonia in her home city of Wuhan. She rushed back on an overnight train. Later, she told Scientific American magazine that one of her early thoughts was, ‘Could [the coronaviruses suspected to be the culprit] have come from our lab?’

She concluded not. This new disease had appeared in a seafood market selling exotic wildlife in Wuhan: of 41 cases of people with the disease, 27 had visited the market. Within a month of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing the origins of the virus being animals at the market, four different Chinese research groups reported that they had found a similar virus in smuggled pangolins confiscated in 2019 in Guangdong, a southern province, which was also where the 2003 SARS outbreak had started.

The lack of transparency surrounding the bat-virus projects is one reason that the public scientific consensus has been slowly shifting on the origin of the virus. Early in 2020, many scientists confidently ruled out the suggestion that it might have escaped from a lab. ‘We stand together to condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin,’ announced 27 prominent scientists in The Lancet on 19 February. ‘Our analyses clearly show that SARSCoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,’ proclaimed experts in Nature Medicine on 17 March.

Today, however, a growing number of experts agreed when we put it to them that a lab leak remains a plausible scientific hypothesis to be investigated, regardless of how likely or unlikely.

Another reason for this shift is that the market no longer looks like the site where the pandemic began. In May last year, the director of the Chinese CDC announced that none of the animal samples collected from the Wuhan wet market had tested positive for Covid-19. It was, he declared, ‘more like a victim. The novel coronavirus had existed long before.

The Telegraph/Sky News AU

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