China’s “bat woman,” a virologist from the Wuhan Institute of Virology which has been at the center of “lab-leak” conspiracy, has denied that her institution was to blame for the health disaster.
Dr. Shi Zhengli, an expert in bat coronaviruses, is facing scrutiny over the suspicion that the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab and could have been what originally spread the deadly pandemic to the human population.
The lab was said to be running a gain-of-function program in which researchers sometimes deliberately make viruses more dangerous in the lab to help better prepare for responses to outbreaks that might occur naturally.
“How on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence?” Dr. Shi asked The New York Times in rare comments to the media.
Some however did not buy Dr. Shi’s explanation to the New York Times, saying she “straight-up lied” about her research.
The theory that the deadly virus could have leaked from a lab in China was floated earlier during the global outbreak by the Donald Trump administration, but it was widely dismissed as a conspiracy theory.
The theory was revived again recently after reports emerged that three researchers from the Wuhan institute became ill after visiting a bat cave in the Southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan in 2019.
It led to U.S. President Joe Biden directing intelligence agencies last month to look into the origins of the pandemic, including the lab leak theory.
Another virologist, who claimed to be Shi’s collaborator and requested anonymity, told Global Times that the issue of tracing the virus origins has “definitely been politicalized to largely serve [Western] domestic political needs such as winning elections…”
“There’s no way that the virus could have been made in WIV. I am confident that science will eventually prevail by discovering the progenitor virus in nature one day!” the virologist said.
Chinese researchers have said they found a new batch of coronaviruses in bats that resemble covid-19 after sampling urine, feces and mouth swabs from small forest-dwelling bats living in the Yunnan Province.
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