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Update: WHO team visits P4 lab in Wuhan Institute of Virology - February 2021

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  • #61
    Divisive COVID ‘lab leak’ debate prompts dire warnings from researchers

    27 May 2021
    Amy Maxmen

    Allegations that COVID escaped from a Chinese lab make it harder for nations to collaborate on ending the pandemic — and fuel online bullying, some scientists say.

    Calls to investigate Chinese laboratories have reached a fever pitch in the United States, as Republican leaders allege that the coronavirus causing the pandemic was leaked from one, and as some scientists argue that this ‘lab leak’ hypothesis requires a thorough, independent inquiry. But for many researchers, the tone of the growing demands is unsettling. They say the volatility of the debate could thwart efforts to study the virus’s origins.

    Global-health researchers also warn that the growing demands are exacerbating tensions between the United States and China ahead of crucial meetings at which world leaders will make high-level decisions about how to curb the pandemic and prepare for future health emergencies. At the World Health Assembly this week, for example, health officials from nearly 200 countries are discussing strategies including ways to ramp up vaccine manufacturing and to reform the World Health Organization (WHO). But a US–China divide will make consensus on these issues harder to reach, says David Fidler, a global-health researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank in Washington DC. “If there’s some turning down of the geopolitical heat between these two great powers, we could create some space to perhaps do some of the things that we need to do,” he says.

    Others worry that the rhetoric around an alleged lab leak has grown so toxic that it’s fuelling online bullying of scientists and anti-Asian harassment in the United States, as well as offending researchers and authorities in China whose cooperation is needed. ...