Speculation about Covid's origins: where does it lead?

A Wall Street Journal report has given fresh impetus to the theory that Sars-Cov-2 originated from a Chinese lab. According to the report based on unpublished US intelligence, employees of the Wuhan Institute of Virology showing symptoms similar to Covid sought hospital care in November 2019. US President Biden is demanding clarification and has expanded the US intelligence agency investigation, saying he wants a report within 90 days.

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Berlingske (DK) /

A strange change of trend

Things that seemed unimaginable before the last presidential elections in the US have suddenly become plausible, notes columnist Eva Selsing in Berlingske:

“When Trump dared to say last year that the 'China virus' most likely came from a lab in Wuhan, the mainstream media made him out to be a crazy paranoiac. US national epidemiologist Anthony Fauci said that artificially producing such a virus was probably impossible. Now that Trump is no longer president, this very same thesis is admissible - and Fauci himself recently said that he wasn't sure that the coronavirus originated naturally. Fortunately no one here is influenced by such changes of heart, right?”

Sabah (TR) /

The truth can no longer be hidden

Facebook has announced that it will no longer block posts asserting that 'Covid-19 was man-made' or produced. This comes a little late, says Sabah:

“Since so far they have blocked claims that challenged the official coronavirus discourse because they considered them 'unscientific', something must have happened that changed their minds. ... In the pandemic, Facebook and similar platforms that claim to distribute free membership without vested in-interests and only to serve the free expression of opinions have revealed their true function. The reason for their current move is presumably the realisation that they can no longer hide the truths that they have so far concealed through the use of censorship.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Time to make important decisions

Society faces two fundamental questions regardless of the outcome of the investigation, The Daily Telegraph concludes:

“We do know that scientists have been manipulating viruses to make them more dangerous, on the ethical grounds that we need to stay one step ahead of nature to be prepared. But is the public comfortable with scientists taking such risks, especially in densely populated areas? The other question is how we handle China. If conspiracy theories flourish around China then it is because the communist party is a giant conspiracy, and its manipulation of international bodies, its control of information and persecution of whistle-blowers makes it difficult to sort fact from fiction.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Competing conspiracy theories

The demand for a new investigation into the origins of the virus is fuelling conspiracy theories, La Repubblica believes:

“According to the US government, the work of the WHO experts was so heavily influenced by the Chinese government that it has lost all credibility. What is counterproductive in this regard is the rigid stance of Xi Jinping. ... Biden's demand was countered yesterday by Beijing with hints about 'dark stories' told by the intelligence services, driven by the desire to 'use the pandemic for stigmatisation, political manipulation and smear campaigns'. At the same time, the Chinese government is increasingly circulating its own 'counter-conspiracy theories' about alleged foreign origins of the virus, to turn the tables on the West.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Biden playing the tough guy

El Periódico de Catalunya suspects that health policy is not the main reason why Biden is now bringing in the intelligence services:

“Certainly, it is important to clarify whether the infection occurred directly between animals and humans in public spaces or whether it was due to a security breach at a laboratory in Wuhan. But the haste with which the US president is now requesting the report supports the hypothesis that this is part of a struggle for supremacy fought on all fronts. And it fosters the suspicion that when he arrives at his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva on 16 June, Joe Biden wants to convey a firmness of stance to the international community that the conservatives in the US call into question at every opportunity.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

China facing major loss of credibility

There is indeed something at stake here for Beijing, Rzeczpospolita comments:

“In politics, especially when it comes to securing power, morality does not play a big role - we shouldn't kid ourselves about that. But for China - a power that many consider to be more effective and thus more attractive than the West - image counts. And that may now suffer greatly.”

SonntagsZeitung (CH) /

The evidence points to lab leak

It's more likely that Sars-CoV-2 is not of natural origin, the SonntagsZeitung is convinced:

“The only argument in favour of zoonosis - or natural origin - is that earlier coronaviruses originating from bats first attacked animals. Although China had more than 80,000 wild animals examined in 31 regions, Sars-CoV-2 has not yet been detected in any of them. ... On the other hand, many indications support the laboratory hypothesis. In Wuhan, for example, research was carried out on new types of coronaviruses in two laboratories with dubious safety credentials. After the outbreak of the epidemic, Chinese virus researchers were gagged and their papers removed from the internet. Not even the WHO Commission of Inquiry was given access to documents that could clarify open questions.”

The Times (GB) /

Not a job for intelligence agents

Scientists must clarify the question of where the virus comes from, The Times stresses:

“Supporters of Donald Trump have hailed these developments as vindication for his decision to investigate whether the coronavirus escaped from the laboratory. Yesterday the Biden administration asked the intelligence services to 'redouble' their efforts to discover the facts of the outbreak. Science is the sole criterion that must be used in assessing the origins of the virus, and so far the epidemiological and molecular evidence does not support the 'lab leak' theory. But Beijing's secrecy and invective are shaking confidence. China must come clean and open its doors to scrutiny.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

The truth will never come to light

Only total transparency can clarify the situation now, writes Handelsblatt:

“The Middle Kingdom needs to open all doors to international virologists, immunologists, epidemiologists and other experts, hand over all documents and put them at the disposition of all those who can provide relevant information. Total transparency is needed, but it doesn't look like we'll get it. China is consistently pursuing its policy of concealment and deception. ... It is to be feared that the origin of the devastating coronavirus pandemic will not come to light in the foreseeable future. To the detriment of the world.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Knowledge gaps remain

China's stubborn stance is counterproductive, criticises Jutarnji list:

“More and more scientists, even those who had previously rejected the theory that the virus escaped uncontrolled from a laboratory in Wuhan, are calling for investigations to continue. Their aim, they say, is to close gaps in knowledge and further facilitate the struggle against the virus. ... Beijing remains unyielding, and as things stand, we will not find out what exactly took place in the Wuhan lab. The WHO report in March concluded that it was highly unlikely that the virus escaped from a laboratory. ... The word 'likely' is important, as is avoiding the complete ruling out of human error.”