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Covid origins probe: The Lancet does U-turn over lab leak theory

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London, Sep 19, 2021- After facing backlash for its coverage of origins of the Covid pandemic, the much acclaimed scientific journal — The Lancet has now published an ‘alternative view’ from 16 scientists.

The international team of health experts, in the open letter, make an appeal for “objective, open, and transparent scientific debate about the origin of SARS-CoV-2”.

Scientists “need to evaluate all hypotheses on a rational basis, and to weigh their likelihood based on facts and evidence, devoid of speculation concerning possible political impacts”, the authors wrote.

The Lancet, had in February last year, published an open letter that “strongly condemned conspiracy theories” surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin.

Earlier this year, it was revealed earlier that Peter Daszak — a British scientist and president of the US-based non-profit EcoHealth Alliance that has a direct connection with China — had secretly orchestrated the now-infamous letter. The firm has also funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

In the new open letter, the scientists discuss the possibility that laboratory research might have played a role in the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin”, they said, in a statement that “imparted a silencing effect on the wider scientific debate”.

However, “there is no direct support for the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2, and a laboratory-related accident is plausible”, the authors stated.

“It might seem small, but after 18 months of complete denial, the very act of [The] Lancet agreeing to publish this letter acknowledging the origins of Covid-19 remains an open verdict, is a very big deal,” Professor Nikolai Petrovsky of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, one of the signatories, told Daily Mail on Sunday.

“For a leading medical journal like Lancet to agree to finally open its doors to a letter from scientists highlighting the ongoing uncertain origins of Covid-19, indicates how far we have come in 18 months in requesting an open scientific debate on the topic, but also indicates just how far we still have to go,” he added.

Further, the new letter also implored China to open up and allow access to proper investigation. While the first joint World Health Organisation-China Study concluded that the laboratory origin was “extremely unlikely”, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has declared that all hypotheses remained on the table including that of a laboratory leak.

China has, meanwhile, resisted a second full and unrestricted probe into the origins of the outbreak by WHO, accusing the global health body of “arrogance” and a “disrespect for common sense”.

“While we need more evidence, the world will remain mired in dispute without full engagement of China, including open access to primary data, documents, and relevant stored material to enable a thorough, transparent, and objective search for all relevant evidence,” the authors wrote. (Agency)

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