Maybe this a first official report of a certain kind, but a degree of common sense has pointed in the direction of laboratory origin for a long time.
Official sources, in particular the WHO has downplayed possible lab origin. Some have even labelled it a “conspiracy theory”.
However I have not seen the follow facts disputed by official sources.
1. There are many biological labs around the world, but not very many that specialise in bat coronaviruses. I have read repeated claims, and no official denial, that the Wuhan lab is one of only two laboratories in the world that work specifically on this kind of virus, the other one being in America.
2. For a bat coronavirus to emerge naturally in the very same city where such viruses are researched in a laboratory, seems like a pretty unlikely coincidence to begin with.
3.The kind of bat this coronavirus came from is not local to Wuhan, but from another part of China. Yet this kind of bat is used for research in the Wuhan bio lab however.
4. The very first cases of the virus had no link to the animal market in Wuhan even according to official sources, only later cases can possibly be linked to the city marketplace.
5. Yet the Chinese government insisted from the very start that the virus came from the market and seemed oddly incurious to even explore the other obvious alternative of lab origin. These are not the actions of an agency that wants to find out the origin of the virus. Such actions are more compatible with an authority that knew that the virus came from the laboratory, but for purposes of saving face insisted on a marketplace origin.
6. The Wuhan lab conducts research into “gain of function”, and specifically in the area of increased human to human transmissibility. This virus is far more transmissible between humans than recent naturally arising zoonotic coronaviruses SARS and MERS. Unlike those earlier coronaviruses, this virus seem to have been strikingly effective from the very beginning at transmission between humans.
7. The Chinese have insisted there is no record of this strain of virus in research in their laboratory but have not opened up records for eternal examination. So much time has passed that even if they were to do so, the integrity of the records reasonably may be doubted.
8. Medical reports have described the large number of symptoms and organs affected by this virus as highly unusual. Are these observations explained if the virus emerged from “increase of function” research?
9. Leaks from bio labs have happened before. In fact they have occurred with alarming frequency, but fortunately contained, and arguably we have been lucky that a leak such as this has not occurred before now. This is by no means in the realm of wild “conspiracy theory”. It is an entirely plausible scenario that such a leak could occur. In fact, the agenda of officials who speak as though this possibility is some sort of wild fantasy may reasonably be doubted. Because even if the virus did not emerge from a laboratory, it is an entirely legitimate and plausible scenario to explore on the basis of the known facts.
10. Virologists in the United States worked very closely with virologists in the Wuhan lab and therefore share a common motive for wishing that the virus did not emerge from the laboratory.
11. Scrutiny of laboratory work in such viruses worldwide may call into question whether the supposed benefits of this research outweighs the obvious risks. If the virus did not emerge from the laboratory, but from nature, and the purpose of such laboratories has been to research effective reposes to such viruses emerging in nature—then why have we heard so little (nothing?) from these same scientists about how their research may be helpful and applied to this particular virus? Is it because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves? Or because it would be difficult to offer such technical advice without also necessarily laying bare the indications of its laboratory origin?
12. In the UK the former head of the intelligence service MI6 has said he believes the virus originated from a laboratory. (Among other credible figures)
This is not an exhaustive list of common sense reasons for concluding that a laboratory origin is at least possible, or even likely. These are common sense considerations that we can all understand without needing to understand the technical scientific reasons for drawing the same conclusion.
13. Scientists have said that this kind of virus is (alarmingly) easy to produce in a laboratory and that the knowledge required to do this is widespread and the techniques widely practised. In fact scientists elsewhere were able to replicate the virus within a few days on the basis of the released data.
On the other hand the arguments against a laboratory origin appear to be incredibly weak, self serving, and hard to come by.
I heard one scientist claim that his main argument against laboratory origin is, “a scientist could have created a virus that’s much more deadly than this one”. That argument doesn’t even make any sense. Who says scientists are only interested in researching the most deadly viruses possible? It is not even a strong argument against a deliberate leak, because how can he know that a malignant actor would only be interested in a very lethal virus? They may be interested in a weaker virus for its economic impact, for example. Or who knows what other motive. This is an incredibly weak argument against laboratory origin, yet this is the reason we are offered against laboratory origin. Surely there are better arguments than this? What are they?
The Chinese government and the WHO have acted in close coordination, and both have insisted the virus did not come from a laboratory. Unfortunately these sources cannot be considered trustworthy on the basis of their record.
If there are good arguments against laboratory origin, I for one would be very interested to hear them!