The former director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has said the lab leak theory for the origins of Covid-19 should not be discounted. George Gao, an internationally respected virologist, also said another branch of the Chinese government had investigated the lab leak theory – the first such acknowledgment that some kind of official investigation took place. “They haven’t found wrongdoing,” he said.
Gao served as the CDC head until July 2022, putting him at the forefront of China’s investigations into the origins of Covid. The virus was first detected in Wuhan, a city in central China, in December 2019. Numerous studies have suggested Covid most likely emerged from a wet market in Wuhan where live animals were sold.
However, the city is also home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research facility that studies coronaviruses. That has led to the theory that the virus may have been leaked from a laboratory. The theory, initially dismissed by public health experts, was pushed by Donald Trump when he was US president. China has vigorously denied it.
Speaking to the BBC, Gao said: “You can always suspect anything. That’s science. Don’t rule out anything.”