A team of investigators working on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) has visited a major virus research laboratory in China’s central city of Wuhan and is scheduled to meet a top virologist, as they continue to seek clues to the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The experts spent hours at the heavily-guarded Wuhan institute of virology, which has been at the centre of some conspiracy theories that claim a laboratory leak caused the city’s first coronavirus outbreak at the end of 2019.
The WHO, which has sought to manage expectations for the mission, has said its members would be limited to visits organised by their Chinese hosts and have no contact with community members, because of health curbs.
Most scientists reject the hypothesis, but some speculate that a virus captured from the wild which was figured in lab experiments to test the risks of a human spillover could have escaped via an infected staff member.
Some scientists have called for China to release details of all coronavirus samples studied at the lab, to see which most closely resembles SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the respiratory disease.
Former US President Donald Trump and his supporters seized enthusiastically on rumours and speculations, amplifying them with conspiracy theories that China deliberately leaked the virus.
Then-US secretary of state Mike Pompeo insisted last year that there was significant evidence that the virus came from the lab while releasing no proof and acknowledging that there was no certainty.