"The world cannot afford another laboratory leak, if theory is true, to happen all over again."
Accidents happen. This is what social scientist and biological armaments expert Filippa Lentzos said as she commented on what she calls the “groupthink” on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “groupthink” Lentzos is talking about is the prevailing narrative on COVID-19 advanced by leading scientists including Dr. Anthony Fauci and the World Health organization (WHO), positing that the virus was of natural origin. In fact, the Chinese government insisted after the first COVI-19 cases broke out, the virus came from the wilds through the Wuhan Market which traditionally offered exotic animals which was then transmitted by bats into humans.
In the Wall Street Journal article on Lentzos’ admirable journey written by Adam O’Neal, it was noted that as the pandemic engulfed the world leading to millions of infections and at least 3.8 million deaths, she labored on testing that “groupthink” view taking every available tidbit of information to shed light on the issue. Not that she or any of her fellow academics wanted to pin any kind of blame on anybody including the Chinese government which has since been under heavy international pressure to come clean on the matter. They needed more evidence to harness scientific guidance and of course political will to promote needed safety standards to ensure that top level laboratories worldwide like the Wuhan Institute of Virology conducting research on pathogens and other deadly viruses are indeed capacitated to the hilt.
At least that’s what Lentzos and her colleagues belonging to an email group consisting of “ex-intelligence, bioweapons specialists, experts, former US State Department diplomats and others who have worked in arms control and biological disarmaments” were into, O’Neal noted, as the group tried to make something out of the varying information coming out of China, WHO and other sources looking into the whys and wherefores of this deadly virus.
Questions like “is this security related? Is it military? Is there something dodgy going on? What information are we not getting here?” became part of the group’s daily exchanges not because, as Lentzos puts it, we were conspiracy theorists but “it is our profession.” The academic who works out of Switzerland proceeded with her research even as other prominent scientists and the media called her and colleagues out for “asking those questions” and promoting an alternative narrative about the virus.
That alternative gained traction sometime in mid-2020 when no less than then President Trump, his former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Republican Senator Tom Cotton started arguing that the virus could have been leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology which had been conducting experiments on coronavirus since the first SARS COVID case years back.
That narrative was debunked early on as prominent scientists “called out conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 did not have a natural origin.” Similar statements flowed out of the WHO and other research organizations, all of which were dutifully carried by newspapers worldwide including the New York Times and Washington Post natural origin.”
Nonetheless, Lentzos struggled on insisting that dismissing the “lab leak theory” was premature. In an article she published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in May 2020, she posited that “safety lapses in the course of basic scientific research caused the pandemic.” Of course, she acknowledged then that “as of yet, little concrete evidence” but that there were “several indications that collectively suggest this is a serious possibility that needs following up by the international community.” True to her calling as a social scientist and biowarfare expert, she suggested that it could have been “an accident, not a deliberate release.”
Said Lentzos: “If you’re culturing a virus that is readily able to infect humans, particularly via the respiratory tract, then any droplet caused by a simple splash or aerosolization of liquid can be inhaled without you realizing it…Could an unknowingly infected researcher showing no symptoms unwittingly have infected family, friends, and anyone else he or she was in contact with? Or was there perhaps an unnoticed leak of a coronavirus from the lab, from improperly incinerated waste material or animal carcasses that found their way to rubbish bins that rats or cats could have accessed?”
The possibility of an accidental lapse, a “lab leak” has since been gaining traction to the point that in the recent G-7 meeting in the UK, the participants called for the release of more information and the conduct of a second inquiry on the Wuhan Institute of Virology operations at the time of the first COVID-19 case.
Of course, that “lab leak theory” has since been dismissed by the Chinese government as baseless and a second investigation unnecessary. But, as Lentzos noted, accidents do happen. Take the case of the more prominent accidents in recent memory. The Fukushima nuclear reactor melt down comes to mind. For years, the Japanese have always been known as the most cautious and meticulous people especially with regard to the operation and safety of such facilities. But for some reason which has yet to be divulged, the meltdown happened. That break has since been attributed to a host of factors including lapses of those manning the facility. Whether it is that or some other factor, the point is it happened. It was an accident.
Then there were the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters which also caused huge destruction in lives and property, the scars of which like those of Fukushima remain to this day. We will never know for sure what caused these meltdowns, so to speak. Suffice it to say that indeed accidents like these happen even in the most guarded and heavily secured facilities. It is possible that it also happened in Wuhan with all the deadly consequences it brought to the world. As Lentzos and her group advised, it is time that a global safety standard for such facilities, whether for research as in Wuhan or for energy as in the Fukushima and Three Mile Island reactors or even Chernobyl, be put in place and strictly monitored for the health and safety of our world. We cannot afford yet another accident like this “lab leak,” if true, happening all over again.