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Nearly 20 prominent scientists say COVID lab-leak theory remains 'viable'

Determining the virus's origin "is critical for informing global strategies," they argue.

Updated: May 14, 2021 - 4:04pm

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A coalition of nearly 20 prominent virologists, biologists and other academics are calling in a recent letter for further inquiry into the origin of COVID-19, stating that the proposition that the virus escaped from a lab should be actively considered by health investigators. 

In the letter, published on Friday in the journal Science, the international team of scientists—representing countries including Switzerland, Canada and the U.S.—state that "more investigation is still needed to determine the origin of the pandemic."

"Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable," they write. "Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks."

Theories have swirled for roughly the past year and a half that the SARS-Cov-2 virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a major coronavirus research lab that sits just a few miles from where the Chinese government first claimed to have identified an outbreak of COVID-19. 

The scientists in the letter state that "greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve."

"We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data," they write. "A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest."

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