The push-back against the lab leak theory continues even as the theory “gains traction” (in the amusing words of AP/Guardian). This piece by AP in the Guardian reports on the extraordinary statement by WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that “I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen. It’s common.” He would not be saying this if he was not seriously considering the lab leak theory.
But even as they (have to) report the changing discourse on the lab leak theory the liberal press continues to resist it tooth and claw. In this AP/Guardian piece readers are told: “It typically takes decades to narrow down the natural source of an animal virus like Ebola or Sars”. The point of this piece of misinformation is to deal with the awkward fact, for the zoonotic theory, that nearly two years after the first signs of Sars-Cov-2 in Wuhan (ok 19 months if we go by the official Chinese version) the supposed intermediary animal has not been found. In fact the intermediary animal for Sars-Cov-1 was found within a few months.  Not decades. The WHO says it took “more than a year” to find the source for MERS-Cov.  Again; not decades. And there is an extensive search going on for the necessary intermediary animal for the zoonotic theory.  They may yet find it. But the longer the search goes on and this species is not found the less likely the zoonotic theory will look. (It is also interesting to note how enthusiastically the theory that pangolins were the intermediary animal was promoted early on in the pandemic based at least in part on studies from China  – though it now seem that the pangolin is not a candidate).
We can expect more of this. Even as the media report (they have to) on developments which at least make it clear that the lab leak theory is a credible theory they will insert caveats and indeed misinformation to try to disarm it. The liberal establishment is dead set on the lab leak theory never being established. I think there are several reasons for this. The economic consequences are too dreadful. (A punitive sanctions war with China would plunge the world into a massive economic depression). But another factor is cultural; Chinese scientists are well embedded in academia in the West; in part the push-back is a case of protecting their Chinese colleagues. And, not to be underestimated perhaps, is a cultural affinity between the totalitarian-liberal trends in the West with the one-party totalitarianism in China. A love of social order and prescribed behaviours over free intellectual life is something which both modern liberals and the Chinese State have in common.
- Wade gives 4 months. But the source may be contested. Let’s take a more conservative estimate: WHO was reporting the link to civets in January 2004. And Sars-Cov-1 started in February 2003 – so on this timeline about 11 months. So far for Sars-Cov-2 at least 15 months and no animal source identified.