China has firmly denied any theory that says the COVID-19 coronavirus may have come from a lab in Wuhan.New Delhi:
Dismissed as little more than a conspiracy theory for over a year, the hypothesis that COVID-19 originated from a lab in China and not from a wet market in Wuhan has gained considerable traction over the last week (or month). How did we get here?
Here is your 10-point guide to the Wuhan Lab Leak theory:
First, it's important to note that at this point there is no clinching evidence that the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic came out of a lab in China, accidentally or otherwise.
China has wholly rejected the "lab leak" theory, and has instead accused the US and others of peddling conspiracies and politicising the pandemic to divert attention.
And yet, the country has been found making an extraordinary effort to block attempts to unravel the origins of COVID-19, especially inquiries that stray from its official stand. This has prompted many to ask what and why is China trying to cover up if it has nothing to hide.
The genesis of the lab leak theory lies in reports that six miners fell ill in 2012 and three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in 2019 after visiting a bat cave in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.
There are many forks of the theory from this point but among the most popular is that the miners fell ill from a relative of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that triggered COVID-19. This led to Chinese research, particularly at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and at some point in 2019, something went wrong setting off the pandemic.
While many scoffed, the proponents of the theory continued uncovering, piece by piece, evidence of China's obfuscation - from physically removing journalists from the bat cave to wiping online archives of documents that were being used by the lab leak researchers.
Prominent among them is a young man from West Bengal in his late 20s, who goes by the online moniker 'The Seeker' and was featured in a Newsweek piece that has gone - for the lack of a better word - viral.
These efforts reached critical mass last month, triggering an explosion of media coverage from authoritative long-forms to oversimplified listicles (like this one) and sending hashtags like #WuhanLabLeak to the top of social media trends lists.
This renewed attention has led scientists to re-examine the lab leak theory, US President Joe Biden to order an intelligence report on the origin of the virus within three months, and his chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci to call for the release of the records that China has brushed under the carpet.