As Covid-19 Spreads, So Do Conspiracy Theories About Its Origin

The US Department of Defense has cast doubt over allegations that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) came from a Wuhan laboratory, contradicting claims from US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that COVID-19 is human-engineered.

‘At This Point, It’s Inconclusive’

“There’s a lot of rumor and speculation. It should be no surprise to you that we’ve taken a keen interest in that, and we’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that. And I would just say, at this point, it’s inconclusive. Although the weight of evidence seems to indicate ‘natural.’ But we don’t know for certain,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said recently to journalists at the Pentagon.

The alleged claim about the virus speculating that it was made in a Wuhan lab was one of the most popular COVID-19 conspiracy theories that was widely shared on social media. A former Israel military intelligence even once linked the virus to the Wuhan virology lab. Even though he admitted that he had no evidence backing his claim, many people clipped out parts of his statement and shared such misleading information on social media.

The Origin of COVID-19

Novel coronavirus stemmed in a wet market in Wuhan just a few days before the New Year of 2020. The virus causes a disease with symptoms similar to flu and other respiratory illnesses such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

As of April 19, the U.S has recorded the highest death toll over COVID-19 with 39,015, surpassing that of Spain and Italy. The number of infections has reached more than 2,300,000 globally so far.

France Rebuts the White House’s Wuhan Lab Claim

France echoed the Pentagon claim by debunking the White House’s suspicion that the virus had been leaked from a Wuhan virology facility.

“We would like to make it clear that there is to this day no factual evidence corroborating the information recently circulating in the United States press that establishes a link between the origins of COVID-19 and the work of the P4 laboratory of Wuhan, China,” said a government official at the office of French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.

France and China agreed to set up a research lab on infectious diseases in Wuhan in 2004. France’s then-Foreign Minister Michel Barnier signed the agreement. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has repeatedly denied the U.S accusation that novel coronavirus might have been produced in one of the institute’s labs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also slammed the White House’s remarks, raising suspicions and criticism that the Geneva-based organization is biased to China.

French Scientists Divided Over Origin of the Virus

Professor Luc Montagnier, one of the co-discoverers of HIV, believed that the COVID-19 (or previously known as SARS-CoV-2) was a lab accident when the Wuhan lab was trying to produce a vaccine against the AIDS culprit.

The Nobel Prize winner in medicine argued that various elements of COVID-19 have the same characteristics similar to those in the HIV.

“The Wuhan city laboratory has specialized in these coronaviruses since the early 2000s. They have expertise in this area,” the professor told CNews channel.

However, virologist Étienne Simon-Lorière at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, snubbed Montaigner’s claims, arguing that it is unlikely to find the same elements in different types of viruses.

“That does not make sense. These are very small elements that we find in other viruses of the same family, other coronaviruses in nature,” the virologist told AFP as Asiatimes quoted.

Were the U.S and Israel Behind the Creation of COVID-19?

In early March, former agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Phillip Giraldi raised suspicion that the U.S had conspired with its close ally Israel to produce the virus, claiming that the COVID-19 was not the result of natural process.

“Several reports suggest that there are components of the virus that are related to HIV that could not have occurred naturally. If it is correct that the virus had either been developed or even produced to be weaponized it would further suggest that its escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab and into the animal and human population could have been accidental. Technicians who work in such environments are aware that “leaks” from laboratories occur frequently,” Giraldi wrote in an article published by the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Giraldi suspected that the Trump administration’s accusation that China might have produced COVID-19 was based on fears that China’s dominance would threaten the US economy and national security. Also in support of his position, Giraldi noted how between 2005 to 2009, the US and Israel secretly created a computer virus called Stuxnet aimed at destroying Iran’s computer system used for nuclear research.

Did the US Know About the Virus in Advance?

Reports in the Times of Israel claimed that the U.S had notified Israel about the novel coronavirus outbreak in China in November, a month before the virus infected China. According to the report, US intelligence agencies initially passed the information to the White House, which snubbed the report. Then, the agencies warned Washington’s allies, such as NATO and Israel.

The report did not specify more details about when the US intelligence agencies had become aware of the virus before warning Israel in November.

Closure of Fort Detrick

One of the most-widely shared conspiracy theories is the link between the closure of the Fort Detrick military laboratory in Maryland in August, 2019 and the outbreak of COVID-19 months later, given that the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases studies lethal viruses such as Ebola at this location.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated the research did not have an adequate system to decontaminate waste from the high-level security center, contradicting the Fort Detrick spokesperson’s claim that there had been no leak related to hazardous materials and there had been no threat to people’s health.

Americans have urged authorities to clarify the reasons for Fort Detrick’s shutdown, triggering the conspiracy theory behind the COVID-19. However, there has been no evidence the military lab is linked to the outbreak.

Conspiracy Conclusions

COVID-19-related conspiracy theories always attract readers, thanks to their sensational storylines. However, people should not write and post their assumptions without verifying them first.

Rather than busily debating where the virus was produced, people should focus more on helping out during this difficult time and maintaining their health.