Finnish researchers’ statements contradict US news site’s report from Chinese lab

WHO researchers visited Wuhan in January to find out the source of the virus. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri / AFP

Finnish researchers are stating that a recent article by the American journalism site, The Intercept, which claims to have documented finding that indicates the covid-19 pandemic might have begun in a lab in Wuhan China, does not contain any such information and covid-19 most likely originates from nature, YLE reports. 

Last week, The Intercept claimed to have obtained 900 pages of documents about the work and funding of a virological research institute in Wuhan, China. The site received information under the Public Access Act from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. An American research institute was involved in funding the Wuhan research.

Since the covid-19 pandemic began to spread from Wuhan in December 2019, the origin of the virus has been investigated and efforts have been made to determine whether the virus escaped from a Wuhan lab. According to studies by the World Health Organization, this is unlikely to have happened, although full certainty have not been obtained. In The Intercept’s recent article it is being considered whether the covid-19 could have escaped the laboratory anyway.

Following the article, YLE has spoken to two Finnish researchers who do not agree with the possibility and who believe the article by The Intercept lacks evidence to support its suggestion. 

Matti Jalasvuori, docent of virology at the University of Jyväskylä says to YLE that the article does not in any way guarantee that it is a virus that escaped from the laboratory and there is a large number of viruses in nature.

Researcher Minna Hankaniemi from the University of Tampere agrees and says that the article does not give any indication that covid-19 has escaped from the laboratory.

According to YLE, both Matti Jalasvuori and Minna Hankaniemi consider the most likely alternative to be that the coronavirus has been transmitted to humans from bats in nature.

“It is easier to find a virus that is easily transmitted from person to person in nature than to make a similar new type of virus in the laboratory,” Matti Jalasvuori says.

As covid-19 began to spread in Wuhan, a study was underway in which thousands of coronavirus samples taken from bats were collected in the laboratory. The study also included samples from people working with animals. According to Matti Jalasvuori, the Chinese laboratory has been carrying out studies that will provide new knowledge about different viruses in nature and will enable people to prepare for future pandemics.

The laboratory’s studies have been “completely normal” and “important,” Minna Hankaniemi notes. 

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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