NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES
Scientists ‘strongly condemn’ rumors and conspiracy theories about
origin of coronavirus outbreak
By Jon CohenFeb. 19, 2020 , 7:00 AM
A group of 27 prominent public health scientists from outside China is pushing back against a steady stream of stories and even a scientific papersuggesting a laboratory in Wuhan, China, may be the origin of the outbreak of COVID-19. “The rapid,
open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins,” the scientists, from nine countries, write in a statement published online by The Lancetyesterday.
The letter does not criticize any specific assertions about
the origin of the outbreak, but many posts on social media have singled out the Wuhan Institute of Virology for intense scrutiny because it has a laboratory at the highest security level—biosafety level 4—and its researchers study coronaviruses from bats, including the one that is closest to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Speculations have included the possibility that the virus was bioengineered in the lab or that a lab worker was infected while handling a bat and then transmitted the disease to others outside the lab. Researchers from the institute have insisted there is no link between the outbreak and their laboratory.
“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” says The Lancet statement, which praises the work of Chinese health professionals as “remarkable” and encourages others to sign on as well.