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Virologist suggests coronavirus origin theorists are missing a cover-up that's 'staring them right in the face'

COVID-19 origin theorists could be right about a Chinese government cover-up, but they might have their sights set in the wrong direction, an American virologist suggested to Bloomberg.

When an international group of experts organized by the World Health Organization traveled to Wuhan, China, earlier this year to research the origins of the coronavirus that sparked the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they visited the Baishazhou market, which is larger, but perhaps less well-known (internationally, at least) than the Huanan market, where many people initially believed the virus first jumped from wild animals to humans.

The research team was told only frozen foods, ingredients, and kitchenware were sold there. But a recently released study that had previously languished in publishing limbo showed, thanks to data meticulously collected over 30 months, that at least two vendors there regularly sold live wild animals, Bloomberg reportsBloomberg also notes that one of the earliest recorded COVID-19 clusters in Wuhan involved a Huanan stall employee who traded goods back and forth between the two markets. 

A link between them would be "very intriguing," Stephen Goldstein, an evolutionary virology research associate at the University of Utah, told Bloomberg. But, he said, it won't be possible to determine whether that employee had any contact with infected wildlife because the animals are long gone. Still, it seems likely to Goldstein that some authorities didn't want the presence of a thriving wildlife trade to become public knowledge. "It seems to me, at a minimum, that local or regional authorities kept that information quiet deliberately. It's incredible to me that people theorize about one type of cover-up," he said, likely referring to the hypothesis that the virus actually leaked from a nearby government-run lab, "but an obvious cover-up is staring them right in the face." Read more at Bloomberg.