â€œWe are not just battling the virus, but also conspiracy theories,â€ a spokesman for the Wuhan Institute of Virology has said. â€œConspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice.â€
He was trying to squash an idea that has been growing in popularity ever since the 2019-nCoV Coronavirus outbreak began: that his Virology Lab, at the heart of Wuhan, might be responsible.
In a way, he was right. In a time of crisis, the last thing anyone would want to do is spread fear â€” especially if itâ€™s based on nothing but a baseless rumor.
But when you start looking into those claims that the epidemic thatâ€™s already infected almost 250,000 people across the world started in a Wuhan Virology Lab, it starts looking like something other than a conspiracy theory. It starts looking like an explanation that holds up unnervingly well â€” and that, if we take the time to look into it, could help prevent something similar from happening again.
The official story is that 2019-nCoV started in a seafood market in Wuhan. Unclean animals sold there were carrying the virus, Chinese scientists have suggested, and, as a result, some unlucky shoppers ended up becoming patient zeros for a global crisis.
Youâ€™ve probably already heard that explanation before, and thereâ€™s a good chance youâ€™ve accepted it as a fact â€” but there are some glaring problems with it.
For one thing, the first patients with 2019-nCoV have no connection to the market whatsoever. They lived nearby, and they appear to have spread the disease to people who went there â€” but the real patient zeros never actually stepped foot inside of it.
Also, 2019-nCoV is believed to have originated in bats â€” and this was a seafood market. Nobody was selling bats inside of this market. Bats just arenâ€™t something people in Wuhan normally eat.
Even Chinaâ€™s scientists have started backing away from this theory. To quote one directly:
â€œIt seems clear that [the] seafood market is not the only origin of the virusâ€¦ But to be honest, we still do not know where the virus came from.â€
A lot of people have pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is just a 30 minutes drive for the seafood market. But if thatâ€™s not close enough for you, thereâ€™s another lab that researches bat coronaviruses thatâ€™s even closer: The Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
Itâ€™s not just on the other side of town. Itâ€™s on the other side of the street.
23 Mar 2020