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Top fed official: ‘Growing body of evidence’ shows COVID-19 leaked from Chinese lab

Leak is "most credible" theory about origin of coronavirus, deputy national security adviser says

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Coronavirus
Coronavirus
(Dowell / Getty Images)
Updated: January 4, 2021 - 4:40pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger says there is now "a growing body of evidence" that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese government-run lab in Wuhan.

Pottinger reportedly doubled down on the claim in a recent Zoom meeting with U.K. officials.

“There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus,” Pottinger said, according to the Daily Mail.

He claimed that the virus may have escaped through a "leak or an accident," adding, "even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story."

China has long claimed that the virus emerged in December 2019 in a wet market, which sells freshly slaughtered animals, including exotic ones like turtles, snakes, bats, civits and pangolins. 

SARS, a far more deadly disease than the current coronavirus, also emerged from a wet market in China. Luckily, that virus is far less communicable than SARS-CoV-2 and killed fewer than 800 people worldwide. The current coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, has killed more than 1.8 million people worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Scientists say SARS-CoV-2 mostly resembles related viruses found in bats and pangolin. But China is still allowing markets to sell all sorts of wild animals – including bats.

Pottinger's comments came as a team of experts from the World Health Organization prepare to fly to Wuhan to investigate how the pandemic began.

"MPs around the world have a moral role to play in exposing the WHO investigation as a Potemkin exercise," Pottinger said in the Zoom call, referring to the fake villages created in the Crimea in the 18th Century that were intended to convince the visiting Russian Empress Catherine the Great that the region was in good health.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Member of Parliament (MP) who was on the Zoom meeting, said Pottinger's comments represented a "stiffening" of the U.S. position that the virus emerged from a government-run lab. He also said he had heard reports that U.S. officials are talking to a whistleblower from the Wuhan institute.

"I was told the U.S. have an ex-scientist from the laboratory in America at the moment," he said. "That was what I heard a few weeks ago. I was led to believe this is how they have been able to stiffen up their position on how this outbreak originated."

Pottinger has long pursued the theory. He ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to search for evidence that the virus came from a lab, the New York Times reported in April.

"A Chinese virologist who said she did some of the earliest research on COVID-19 has publicly claimed COVID-19 was man-made, and that the Chinese government covered up its dangers. Western medical experts have discredited the theory," the Mail reported.