Viewpoint: Reassessing the reassessments of COVID’s origins — The Wuhan lab leak theory is still the less likely scenario but we may never know for sure

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Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

How did the pandemic start? From the early days, experts have considered two possibilities. Either the virus somehow escaped from a laboratory, perhaps the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or, like countless viruses throughout history, it arrived through zoonotic spillover, jumping from animals to humans.

More than a year later, we still don’t know exactly what happened. Though governments and news organizations have focused more attention recently on the notion that the virus leaked from a lab, it’s unclear that we’ll ever identify a theory that satisfies everyone as to how SARS-CoV-2 emerged. Ironically, given the recent prominence of the lab escape theory, the questions the world wants answered about the virus — and the astonishingly fast development of the vaccines that can quash the pandemic — depend entirely on research conducted in labs like the Wuhan Institute of Virology and across the world over the past several decades.

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Preparing for pandemics, global crises by definition, demands a global response. We must approach this collaboratively — and objectively recognize what the data shows. This virus is more likely to be a product of nature than a product of a laboratory. Letting politics lead us toward other conclusions won’t help keep anyone safer.

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