If COVID-19 resulted from a Chinese lab leak, it wouldn’t be the country’s first biohazard accident. Here’s a history

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Credit: Independent
Credit: Independent

In the aftermath of a small outbreak of the original SARS virus, well after the main outbreak that ended in summer 2003, a WHO investigation concluded that the Beijing Centers for Disease Control made critical errors in handling samples of the virus, [resulting in two cases and one death].

“Clearly there was a link to the [Beijing, not Wuhan] Institute of Virology, and our investigations are still ongoing, but we haven’t found a single incident that links the two cases of laboratory workers at the institute, so it appears to be two separate breaches of bio-safety, and we can’t find any single incident or accident that explains either case,” said Dr. Julie Hall, WHO’s coordinator in China of communicable disease surveillance and response. “It has raised real concerns about bio-safety in general, how bio-safety guidelines are implemented, and how that is supervised and monitored.”

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Subsequent investigations concluded a “batch of supposedly inactivated SARS virus that was brought from a high-containment facility into a low-safety diarrhea research lab where the two were working . . . In a breach of standard safety procedures, the researcher who carried out the inactivation — identified only by a family name, ‘Ren’ — had not tested whether the virus was truly inactive, according to the panel.”

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