By Sen. Tom Cotton
The conventional wisdom about the coronavirus pandemic’s origins has changed rapidly, as conventional wisdom often does. Even skeptics and apologists have finally begun to acknowledge the Chinese Communist labs in Wuhan as a possible — even the likely — source of this plague.
But those with open eyes and an open mind could see from the beginning that this virus might have spilled out of a lab. Last January, I pointed out that the outbreak’s supposed epicenter, a food market, was just miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), China’s highest-security facility for deadly pathogens. A second lab, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control, was only a few hundred yards from the market. And many of the earliest known cases had no contact with the market. Thus, I urged U.S. officials to investigate the labs — and warned that this epidemic could be a man-made disaster worse than Chernobyl.
Other early known facts also pointed to a lab origin. The suspected host animal, the Chinese horseshoe bat, does not live in or around Wuhan. But the WIV and the Wuhan CDC worked with bat coronaviruses. Researchers at the WIV traveled to remote caves in Yunnan Province, the site of a small but deadly viral outbreak in 2012, to capture bats and sift their guano for new viruses. They also kept live bats in captivity — flying petri dishes that can bite, scratch, and bleed on unwary researchers. Finally, China has a history of lab leaks, such as the accidental release of the SARS coronavirus from government laboratories in 2003 and 2004; a similar leak in Wuhan could not be ruled out.
The events and discoveries of the past year have only bolstered the lab-leak hypothesis.