Can this reveal the true origin of the virus?
As the nations start to stabilise the spread of coronavirus, it is revealed that two scientists (that are now being looked into by the Australian government) had studied live bats in Australia as a part of the research co-funded by the Chinese government.
So far, the speculations are for the virus to either having originated in the Chinese wet markets or to be leaked by the Wuhan district’s level four laboratory. The lab was conducting a study on the coronavirus pathogens before the infection swept the country. The new information might help narrow things down further.
It’s been revealed that Wuhan Institute of Virology’s scientist, Zhou (head of the ‘Bat Virus Infection and Immunity Project’), was sent by the Chinese authorities to complete his doctorate in Australia. He spent three years (2011-2014) at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory. His primary function was to arrange live bats to be transported from Queensland to Victoria so they could be dissected and studied.
This venture was funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and CSIRO and also included studies on bat immunology, interferons, and bats being rich reservoirs for deadly viruses.
Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Shi Zhengli (Director, the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Chinese Academy of Science) is another scientist being eyed by the government in search of answers. She had visited between February 22 to May 21, 2006, and worked at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory of CSIRO.
Her central role in the research was to analyse fecal samples taken from horseshoe bats and determining if they were natural hosts for viruses like SARS.
When the virus outbreak happened in Wuhan, Shi Zhengli was worried if it was her lab that caused the catastrophe. But ever since, she has denied the possibility. On November 18, 2019, she had also issued a postdoctoral recruitment notice, stating they were on the lookout for a candidate to study bats’ innate immunity.
A cable dated 19/01/2019, also revealed that diplomats and scientists from the US Embassy in Beijing had visited the lab and had a meeting with Zhengli – only to have sent a warning back to Washington about inadequate management and lack of safety.
The authorities are heating up
Andrew Hastie (Chair, Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security) stated that the Chinese government needs to co-operate and take responsibility for the virus, which started spreading within their borders.
Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. (The US Ambassador to Australia) has gone on record saying that there is no daylight when it comes to Australia and the US’s position on a probe. He also commended Foreign Minister’s call for a hard, dispassionate look at the origins of the pandemic.
Victorian Senator James Paterson has suggested an independent international investigation into the matter. Dave Sharma (Liberal MP) has stated that not just the origins but the handling of the outbreak need to be investigated as well.
The Australian Animal Health Laboratory and CSIRO have been collaborating with China and researching diseases originating from bats. Now with intelligence agencies probing into the past, we hope the world can find some answers.