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There was nothing strange, but probe is needed: Foreign scientist at Wuhan lab speaks out

Danielle Anderson, the only foreign scientist to have undertaken research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s BSL-4 lab, told Bloomberg that she is convinced that the novel coronavirus was not made intentionally to infect people and deliberately released.

June 28, 2021 / 11:11 AM IST
A file image of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China (Image: AFP)

A file image of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China (Image: AFP)

Danielle Anderson, the only foreign scientist to have undertaken research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s BSL-4 lab, has told Bloomberg that it’s not impossible that the novel coronavirus spilled from there. However, Anderson still believes that the SARS-CoV-2 virus most likely came from a natural source.

“I’m not naive enough to say I absolutely write this off,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she is not surprised that researchers have not found the “smoking gun” bat responsible for the latest coronavirus outbreak so far.Follow our LIVE blog for the latest updates of the coronavirus pandemic

While Anderson said that the facility in Wuhan, China is large enough to not have known what everyone was working on towards the end of 2019, she acknowledged being aware of published research from the lab that involved testing viral components for their propensity to infect human cells.

“If people were sick, I assume that I would have been sick — and I wasn’t,” the scientist said. “I was tested for coronavirus in Singapore before I was vaccinated, and had never had it.”

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She added that many of her colleagues had travelled to Singapore with her in December 2019 for a gathering on the Nipah virus. “There was no chatter,” Anderson said. “Scientists are gossipy and excited. There was nothing strange from my point of view going on at that point that would make you think something is going on here.”

Yet, Anderson told Bloomberg that she is convinced no virus was made intentionally to infect people and deliberately released among masses.

One of the conspiracy theories around the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is that it was intentionally released among people by Chinese authorities, or at least with their knowledge. China has denied these theories.

A task force assembled by the World Health Organization (WHO) to study the pandemic’s origins had visited the lab in February.

China remains under pressure from countries across the world to allow the WHO to conduct a second study on the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Over the past month, even the White House and G7 nations have spurred renewed interest on how the virus may have developed.

Read: Did coronavirus originate in a Wuhan lab? Clamour grows for China to offer answers

Anderson suggested that scientists working at the lab had to demonstrate competency in wearing air-pressured suits and their knowledge of containment measures, calling the procedures "very, very extensive".

Still, Anderson suggests that a probe is required to find out the virus’ origin and settle the matter.

Follow Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here

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first published: Jun 28, 2021 11:11 am