As the worldwide discourse surrounding the origin of the COVID-19 virus continues, a notable Chinese scientist has brought fresh insight into the conversation. Against the current mainstream views, he suggests that the laboratory leak theory should not be entirely dismissed. This unexpected stance has added a new layer of complexity to the existing scientific and geopolitical debates about the birth of the pandemic-causing virus.

Professor George F. Gao

The former chief of China’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Professor George Gao, expressed this standpoint during his appearance on the BBC Radio 4 podcast, “Fever: The Hunt for Covid’s Origin.” Prof. Gao, who has transitioned to the role of Vice-President of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, has been instrumental in China’s response to the pandemic and the tracing of the virus’s roots. Emphasizing the scientific principle of open-mindedness, he states, “You can always suspect anything. That’s science. Don’t rule out anything.”

Investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology

China has consistently negated the idea that the virus could have been born in a lab in Wuhan. However, Prof. Gao’s perspective brings a nuanced view to the table. In the interview, he disclosed that a formal probe into the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), renowned for its research on coronaviruses, had taken place. He wasn’t privy to the results but heard that the lab had passed with flying colors. “I think their conclusion is that they are following all the protocols. They haven’t found [any] wrongdoing,” he added.

Purportedly from the US Embassy, RE: Chinese Biosafety Lab

Contending Theories and Scientist’s Opinions

The birthplace of the COVID-19 virus is still a point of contention amongst global scientists and policymakers. Two prevailing theories exist natural transmission from bats to humans, possibly via another animal species, and a laboratory leak, suggesting the virus may have infected someone involved in virus research. The latter has been the fodder for political controversy and conspiracy theories, further muddying the waters of the scientific quest for the virus’s origins.

Despite the heated debates, Prof. Gao’s comments have found some allies. Prof. Wang Linfa, a renowned scientist based in Singapore and an honorary professor at WIV, discussed his January 2020 visit to the institute with the BBC. A leading authority on bat coronaviruses, Prof. Wang, described a colleague’s worry over a potential lab leak. However, after checking their samples, no evidence of the virus causing Covid or any similar virus was found. He also categorically stated there was “zero chance” any lab leak evidence was hidden.

Nevertheless, Prof. Wang has maintained his conviction that the virus most likely made its leap to humans via the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. The market, associated with many early cases, underwent extensive environmental sampling and data collection. According to Prof. Wang and other scientists, this information suffices to discount a lab leak.