May 7, 2020
Since the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic, theories have circulated about the origin of the novel coronavirus causing the disease, SARS-CoV-2. One prominent rumor is that it first escaped from a lab in Wuhan studying bat coronaviruses and then spread to the public. This theory has also evolved into claims that the virus was genetically engineered to be a bioweapon. But scientists say that while there’s not enough information to pinpoint where the virus came from, there is no evidence that it was created in a lab.
The lab-escape theory had been circulating on social media and various blogs for weeks, but gained considerable visibility in a New York Post article in late February. In it, Steven Mosher, a social scientist and the president of the Population Research Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, summarizes why he believes SARS-CoV-2 may have been accidentally spread by China’s National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where researchers have studied bat coronaviruses.
In the article, Mosher describes several lines of reasoning, namely, that the lab is less than 10 miles away from the seafood market where a cluster of COVID-19 cases was first discovered, and that after the 2003 SARS outbreak, the SARS-CoV virus escaped from virology labs multiple times in China. He also describes how Chinese virologist and bioweapons expert Major General Chen Wei went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology with military scientists in January to study the new virus, which Mosher sees as a form of damage control.