Transcript for Some scientists see COVID-19 lab leak theory as a little more possible: Part 2
Here in the lush mountains of rural southwestern China in a small mining cave may lie the answers to where the deadly covid-19 virus came from. Multiple news organizations, including the bbc attempted to send a team of reporters to this cave, but they say they were turn away at a checkpoint and followed by plainclothes police officers. They were a thousand miles away but questions remain about how much Dr. Shi, who works at the Wuhan institute of virology and those collaborating with her knew, with some suspecting that the virus may have been leaked from the lab. With all the very important circumstantial evidence, it became impossible to say that the lab incident origin shouldn't even be examined. In January, the state department issued a fact sheet on activity at the Wuhan institute of virology that said the lab has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China's military. But Dr. Shi has denied this. ABC news obtaining this video of Shi directly addressing these allegations this past spring at a virtual event held by Rutgers university. We heard the rumors that it claimed that in our laboratory we have some project blah blah with the army blah blah, but this is not correct. Because I am the lab's director and responsible for research activity. I don't know any kind of researcher work performed in this lab. David Feith was involved in the investigation first launched past fall. You think she is lying? It is completely inconsistent with information that the U.S. Government had. Reporter: ABC news has also learned from a former state department official that the U.S. Government was aware of financial accounts tied to the Chinese military that were funding the Wuhan institute of virology and its research. The question is was Shi zhengli telling the truth when she stated emphatically there was no Chinese military involvement prior to the outbreak at the Wuhan institute of virology. If there was, her credibility flies out the window. That same state department January fact sheet asserted that several researchers at the Wuhan institute of virology became sick in the fall of 2019 with symptoms consistent with both covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses. ABC news has confirmed from a separate U.S. Intelligence report that three researchers from the lab were admitted to the hospital for care in November 2019. The lab has consistently denied these workers were sick with covid, but U.S. Officials continue to call on China to release their medical records. Robert Gary, like many scientists around the world familiar with Dr. Shi and her work say the accusations against her and her lab are unfair. I see a scientist that's put a lot of her life and her career into looking at these viruses and since back to the original sars. I don't see somebody that's part of a worldwide conspiracy to cover up the origins of sars-cov-2. But the Chinese government has significantly limited international investigations looking into the origins of the covid pandemic. In January, an international group of scientists working for the world health organization arrived in Wuhan. Renowned Dutch scientist Marian Koopman was on the trip. How much cooperation did you get from the Chinese authorities when you did this investigation? There was a lot, but there was also here and there. It was not so easy. It was everything you would wish to see on the table, no. I think it's important to understand just how complex this is. It takes a while to build a working relationship, and that was part of the process. The W.H.O. Team released their report this March concluding that the covid-19 virus most likely followed the route through an intermediate animal, calling the laboratory leak extremely unlikely. When the report was being announced, Dr. Tedros, the W.H.O. Director general, he immediately said this is insufficient. They have said all hypotheses are on the table. Do you think there are people in the Wuhan institute of virology and in the Chinese government who know for sure whether or not it's a lab leak? . There are people associated with the Wuhan institute of virology, and almost surely elsewhere in the Chinese system who know enormous amounts what was going on inside that laboratory in the days before the outbreak when you had sick researcher, and in the months and years before the outbreak when you had research being conducted of a dangerous variety with viruses similar to covid-19. For all the circumstantial evidence and speculation, there is still no proof the virus came from a lab, and only recently have many scientists and others begun to take the lab leak possibility seriously. In February 2020, 27 prominent scientists signed a letter to the lancet, one of the world's leading scientific journals that rejected the lab leak theory. Now ABC news has reached out to all 27 signers of the letter. A dozen responded to our inquiry. Many of them are much less definitive about a natural spillover. Many are more open to the possibility of a lab leak. We even heard back from one of the experts who had originally signed that letter who now thinks a lab leak is more likely than a natural spillover event. Reporter: Jamie metzl says that original lancet letter made it difficult for him and others to explore anything but the natural origin of the virus. Everybody got into this group think, and that was the story. People thought you and others raising these questions were kooks? Did. Now those same questions have gone mainstream, but it could take years to find the answer, if we ever do. Do you think we'll ever know for sure where this virus came from? We'll know with greater confidence where it came from, yes. In the first sars epidemic that. Did find host animal and intermediate animal. Here we are now a year and a half later. Does it bother you at all that they have not found, despite searching, any animal that would be helpful to determining the origin of this? It doesn't bother me at all. Actually finding the reservoir of an emerging virus like that is pretty unusual. It's the exception rather than the rule. It might take years or decads to find that source animal for When we come back, a note
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