On the top of a hill in Wuhan, a virological laboratory, designed with the help of France, is fueling American suspicions about the origin of Covid-19, which appeared in this central Chinese metropolis.
According to most scientists, the new coronavirus was probably transmitted from an animal to humans. The market in the city was accused of selling allegedly live, wild animals.
However, the existence of a virological institute just a few kilometers away has fueled speculation for months that SARS-CoV-2 may have leaked from this sensitive facility.
According to press reports, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke this week of an “investigation” to test this theory, which is not yet based on anything very tangible.
Here are the main questions about the Wuhan Virology Institute:
What is the Wuhan Institute of Virology ?
According to the Washington Post, after several visits to the institute in 2018, the US Embassy in Beijing alerted US authorities about apparently inadequate security measures in a laboratory that was investigating corona viruses of bats.
The American broadcaster Fox News, which cited “several anonymous sources”, accused the laboratory of containing the most dangerous strains of known viruses, such as Ebola.
This very sensitive facility was built in collaboration with France to enable state-of-the-art research to react more quickly to the appearance of infectious diseases.
The laboratory was financed by China at a cost of around 43 million dollars. Scientists work there in absolute captivity. There are less than 30 P4s in the world, half of them in the United States.
According to its website, the Wuhan Institute of Virology also has the largest collection of virus strains in Asia, with 1500 different specimens.
Although P4 is always mentioned in the American press, less pathogenic germs such as corona viruses are theoretically tested in P3, a type of laboratory that the Institute also has.
During the hearing, the Institute refused to answer AFP’s questions. The French researcher working there also refused to speak, citing A non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
AFP is therefore not in a position to formally confirm that corona viruses were indeed tested in these laboratories before the epidemic.