Even the former head of China’s top health body has now admitted a lab leak might have spawned Covid. Professor George Gao, who ran the Chinese Centre for Disease Control (CDC) when the pandemic began towards the end of 2019, has now described the theory as both ‘possible’ and ‘logical’.
However, he insisted there was no evidence to support the claim.
Beijing has repeatedly dismissed the lab leak theory, arguing that the virus emerged naturally inside a wet market in Wuhan and discrediting any suggestion otherwise.
No concrete proof to support either argument has ever been found, leaving experts fearing the truth will never be uncovered.
Former head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Professor George Gao has said it is a ‘possibility’ that Covid could have emerged from a lab
Discussing the never-ending saga at the Pathogens Project Conference in Geneva in Switzerland, Professor Gao acknowledged that Covid originating from a lab leak was possible.
‘With the origins, you have all these conspiracy theories — it was man-made, it was a lab leakage, the virus was already adapted to cells,’ he said, according to the Daily Telegraph.
‘Well, it’s possible, it’s logical thinking.
‘But where’s the evidence, where are the facts?’
He added that ever since a lab leak of SARS in 2004, which led a string of cases and one fatality, China had taken biosecurity seriously.
‘We pin a great deal on biosafety because it is so important. We have a lot of national regulations and so many standards,’ he said.
Even the acknowledgement that a Covid lab leak is a possible is huge departure from Beijing’s official explanation of how the pandemic started.
But this isn’t the first time that Professor Gao has stuck has appeared to have spoken contrary to his country’s official pandemic narrative.
Earlier this month, he, alongside colleagues, published a bombshell paper which ruled there was no proof to say the virus jumped from animals to humans at a now-infamous Wuhan wet market.
While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread
Some experts now say Covid may have emerged from within the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Here security personnel are pictured keeping watch outside the WIV during a visit by the WHO in 2021
And last week the Oxford University-educated researcher warned the true origins of Covid may never be revealed. He said the issue was ‘too sensitive and politicised’.
Professor Gao serves as vice-president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, a government organisation which manages state funding for research held in the country.
The then 60-year-olds departure from the CDC in 2022, officially due to his age, was considered unusual. Chinese officials often stay in post well into their 80s.
He is also considered to be a close friend of US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, who advised former president Donald Trump during the Covid pandemic.
Professor Gao’s comments come a day after another respected researcher at the conference claimed China should have created a Covid vaccine years before the pandemic started.
Researchers in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began, had samples of a very similar coronavirus called RaTG13, which sickened a group of miners in 2012.
Virologist Professor Gustavo Palacios said this effectively meant an opportunity to protect the world from Covid had gone to waste.
It also follows an explosive US Senate report suggested that Chinese researchers started working on a Covid jab in mid-November 2019.
This is over a month before Beijing officially alerted the World Health Organization to a mysterious flu-like outbreak in Wuhan.
It adds to the huge pile of evidence that suggests President Xi Jinping’s communist regime attempted to cover up the early stages of the pandemic.
The report also concludes the pandemic most likely came from a lab leak and was the result of a ‘research-related incident’ in Wuhan.
Consensus over how the pandemic began three years ago in China has slowly started to shift.
While the majority of virologists say the virus had natural origins, a growing number believe it could have been a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
At first, the overwhelming opinion — shared by the world’s leading experts — was that Covid crossed naturally from animals infected with a bat coronavirus.
China’s secrecy — in not providing vital access to scientists probing the origins and accusations of covering up evidence from the early days of the pandemic by wiping key databases — has only fuelled alternative theories.
The truth on how Covid emerged will likely never be known, however.
Other Covid origin theories point to Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan (pictured) as being the epicentre of the outbreak. Many of the earliest cases in December 2019 and January 2020 had visited the site, where live animals were sold
The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market or leaked out of the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has given rise to fierce debate. Some studies point to a natural spillover at the Huanan wildlife market. Positive swab samples of floors, cages and counters also track the virus back to stalls in the southwestern corner of the market (bottom left), where animals with the potential to harbour Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time (bottom right)
Who is Professor George Gao? And has he fallen out with Beijing?
Professor George Gao headed the nation’s Chinese Centre for Disease Control (DCD) during the initial stages of the Covid pandemic.
It’s not the first time that Professor Gao has been willing to speak against Beijing’s official narrative of the pandemic, a stance that may have contributed to him leaving the (CDC)
The 61-year-old, an expert in virology and immunology, has consistently made the headlines over the past few years.
More recently, this has been over his apparent willingness to break away from Beijing’s official narrative regarding the origins of the virus.
He had conducted research casting doubt on the idea that Covid could have emerged naturally from an animal at the Wuhan wet market.
And he has also delicately admitted that, while there is no evidence, Covid having emerged from a lab leak is ‘possible’.
Despite his career, Professor Gao, also known as Gao Fu, originally studied to be a vet before branching out to pursue virology.
He would eventually go on to study biochemistry at Oxford University in 1991 and would later teach there from 2001 and 2004.
Professor Gao would then return to China and work in a variety of public health roles before rising to be deputy director of the CDC in 2011.
Prior to Covid, he was most famous for helping lead Chinese health teams in the international effort to help curb the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014.
He would then become the CDC chief in 2017.
Professor Gao became a common feature of news reports during the original stages of the Covid outbreak when the world’s eyes were focused on China.
But in July 2022, the aged 60, he was announced to be stepping down from the position due to his age.
This raised some eyebrows as officials in country often serve in similar positions well into their 80s.
He instead took on the more junior position as vice-president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, which governs state funding for research in the country.
He has previously called for the US and China to work more closely together on public health issues at time when tensions between the countries had deteriorated.
Professor Goa is world-respected researcher having authored over 500 studies on subjects such as influenza jumping between species in birds and bat-derived virus ecology.