The possibility COVID-19 could have leaked from a Chinese lab should not be ruled out, a former top Chinese government scientist has said.
Professor George Gao, the former head of China’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC), told the BBC Radio 4 podcast Fever: The Hunt for COVID’s Origin: “You can always suspect anything. That’s science. Don’t rule out anything.”
This is in contrast to the position of the Chinese government, which dismisses any suggestion the virus may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
Wuhan – the city where the virus was first detected – is home to one of China’s top national laboratories known to have spent years studying coronaviruses.
Professor Gao played a key role in the pandemic response and efforts to trace how it started.
The COVID-19 lab leak theory resurfaced earlier this year in February when the FBI’s director said this is where it “most likely” originated.
But many scientists say the weight of evidence suggests that a natural origin – the virus spreading from animals to humans – is the most likely scenario.
In a report seen by the Wall Street Journal, four other US agencies agreed with the FBI and said a lab leak was likely the result of natural transmission.
Another two agencies remain officially undecided, the Journal added.