CHINA had virus-ridden bat samples shipped from South Asia to Wuhan as new bombshell evidence could help solve the hunt for the origins of Covid.
In September, researchers found a virus in Laos with a startling similarity to Covid – but it remained a mystery how a bat-borne virus from the South Asian country could have ended up sparking an outbreak in Wuhan.
The viral strain – named Banal-52 – shares 96.8 per cent of its genome with Covid, making it more similar than any other viruses.
And now leaked emails between EcoHealth Alliance and US government funding agencies have revealed bat samples were being collected in Laos and shipped back to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The Chinese lab – a high security facility specalising in coronaviruses – has been in the eye of the storm as questions rage over whether Covid could have escaped from there.
The emails, uncovered by the White Coat Waste Project, suggest viral DNA from “bats and other high-risk species” were sent to Wuhan between June 2017 to May 2019.
Matt Ridley, co-author of Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19, told The Sun Online: “The White Coat Waste Project documents show there is a connection between Laos and Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“When EcoHealth Alliance was collecting samples, it was sending the samples to Wuhan. That’s not a responsible thing to be doing. You don’t want to be sending samples to China.
“It’s extraordinarily important to note the connection.”
The documents also suggest bat samples were shipped to Wuhan from labs in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand as part of an EcoHealth Alliance project.
Evidence of a lab leak has been mounting over the last 18 months as virologists, scientists and governments hunt for clues over the origins of the pandemic.
Mr Ridley said: “We don’t know the answer – but the evidence is strong enough to warrant an investigation into a lab leak.”
Researchers said the newly uncovered link between Laos and Wuhan has now raised the possibility of a “research accident” from Chinese scientists tinkering with the bat coronavirus samples from Laos.
Gilles Demaneuf, a member of the pandemic origins group DRASTIC, wrote in a recent blog: “Now we have a very plausible direct route from Laos to Wuhan, a route with two options.
“Number one, a Wuhan bat sampler infected on a field sampling trip. Number two, a research accident in Wuhan when manipulating a Laos Banal-like bat coronavirus.”
Mr Ridley said it was an “interesting possibility” that Covid could have originated in Laos, rather than China.
According to the Telegraph, Mr Ridley told the Institute of Economic Affairs in London: “Banal-52 is not close enough to be the progenitor, it’s still not the smoking gun, but it’s pretty good. So maybe this virus started in Laos, not China. Interesting possibility.
“But we got a leak of a document showing that the EcoHealth Alliance was sampling bats in Laos.
“They say in the document that because it would be complicated to come back and ask the US government for permission to give some of the grant to a Laotian lab, they’d like to send all these samples to a lab that can analyse it for them.
“It was in a place called Wuhan.
“So the outbreak happened in a city with the world’s largest research programme on bat-borne coronaviruses, whose scientists had gone to at least two places where these Sars-CoV-2-like viruses live.”
HUNT FOR ANSWERS
Mr Ridley believes the world will eventually find out the origins of the devastating coronavirus pandemic.
He told The Sun Online: “Even if it takes a decade, I think we will find out what happened.
“There’s lots of pessimists who say we won’t find out. First of all, there is evidence from other countries we can look into.
“We have seen this from the leaks from the EcoHealth Alliance – how they were planning to insert furin cleavage sites into the viruses.
“As soon as we can get transparency on what EcoHealth Alliance know, we will find out a lot more.
“As for China, there will be a lot of people who know what really happened, and they will one day be in a position to tell us what happened.”
Former intelligence chiefs and diplomats have claimed the virus was leaked from the lab in the “cover up of the century” that is “worse than Watergate”.
Both China and the lab have furiously denied any allegations, but top former intelligence bosses said the evidence of a lab “accident” is clear to see – and there has been a calculated cover up “from day one”.
Sharri Markson’s What really happened in Wuhan has uncovered a string of clues pointing to Beijing’s “comprehensive well-thought-out” effort to hide the evidence.
And the bombshell new book said Covid appears to have been “tailor made for carnage” and may have escaped from the lab after a scientist was bitten by an infected monkey.
China has refused to cooperate with a full-scale probe into the origins and experts said the the cover up is continuing today.