In the wake of mounting pressure from top health officials and myriad intelligence reports that suggest the coronavirus may have leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, President Joe Biden ordered US intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, sparking headlines that could be ripped from a novel.
The Devil’s Hand by Jack Carr to be precise.
The latest installment of Carr’s thriller series follows protagonist James Reece, a fictional Navy SEAL sniper, and is set against the backdrop of a global pandemic. The novel includes real-world correlations, such as China’s first biosafety level-4 laboratory being located in Wuhan, and puts a fictional twist on them, exploring how biological weapons could be aerosolized and released at controlled rates to mimic a naturally spread contagion.
The manuscript was finished well before “coronavirus” became part of the public lexicon. In light of the new developments, though, it seems eerily clairvoyant.
“It is most likely that this is a virus that arose naturally, but we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told senators Wednesday, according to The New York Times.
Many politicians and health officials have maintained for the past year that the virus developed naturally, likely in animals. Then-President Donald Trump was derided last spring for stating he had a “high degree of confidence” the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan. He did not specify what, if any, evidence he had at the time.
Now, a chorus of scientists have expressed the need to examine the possibility the virus came from a lab. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch suggested experts were hesitant to acknowledge the lab leak hypothesis last year because they didn’t want to spread “conspiracy theories,” according to the Times.
A March report by the World Health Organization and China — in which Chinese scientists provided all the data — dismissed the possibility the coronavirus emerged from a lab as “extremely unlikely.” That spurred some scientists to speak out, insisting more investigation was needed.
The Chinese government has continuously worked to block independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Officials in Wuhan first tried to hide the outbreak. Many Western journalists were expelled from the country. Chinese officials pushed numerous conspiracy theories, including that the disease came from a US Army lab, the Times reported.
Earlier this month Dr. Anthony Fauci became one of the highest-profile figures to say he is no longer convinced the COVID-19 pandemic originated naturally.
“I think that we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability exactly what happened,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with PolitiFact.
Wednesday’s announcement from President Biden calling for a deeper investigation also made it clear the CIA and other agencies have not reached a precise conclusion on how the virus began.
“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” Biden’s statement reads.