SCIENTISTS are probing claims coronavirus leaked from a Chinese LAB as part of a huge new investigation into the origins of the virus.
The team, set up as part of the Lancet Covid-19 Commission, will be led by a British zoologist who admits his appointment 'will be controversial with conspiracy theorists'.
Dr Peter Daszak's team was established in July to "offer practical solutions" to the pandemic – and make recommendations about how to avoid a future one, The Telegraph reports.
And officials have vowed to "systematically examine every theory" about how the virus began – including theories that it may have leaked from a Wuhan lab.
Dr Daszak said he will "not be bound by preconceived ideas" – and will keep an "open mind".
However, it's unlikely that it'll ever be possible to say with “absolute certainty” how the virus took hold, he said.
The academic said: “What we can do is look at every possible theory on the origins of Covid-19 and say, ‘What is the evidence for that?’"
He said scientists will consider the possibility that the virus is "coming from nature and spilling over into people" – or whether "it's for some form of human involvement that involves a lab".
It's long been claimed by some that the virus is man-made.
Other say it emerged through a wet market in Wuhan.
Donald Trump previously said he has "evidence" the deadly pandemic originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
There have also been reports that China found an almost identical coronavirus strain in bats and sent it to the lab for examination.
But Dr Daszak said evidence so far suggests Covid-19 "is a naturally occurring virus rather than the result of laboratory creation and release”.
However, the team will examine ‘possibility of laboratory involvement” in “a scientific and objective way that is unhindered by geopolitical agendas and misinformation”.
It is hoped a full investigation will rule out “baseless and uninformed allegations and conspiracy theories that are unbacked by evidence”.
The wider investigation is being chaired by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, an eminent American economist and adviser to the UN.
He said: “What we have learned, I think, about the public health response [to date] is that 0 even though this is a devilish virus – it is controllable.
“Around two billion people live in countries that have substantially suppressed the virus.
"They've been able to do that, primarily because of public health means, and especially these non-pharmaceutical interventions [social distancing]”.
However, he said the UK, the US and western Europe have "failed to put such policies in place" until "basically now".
Many scientists believe the virus was originally found in bats.
And a recent study of mink farms in Holland shows that the closely-packed creatures catch the virus – and spread it.
The intensive farming of the creatures is common in China.
Dr Daszak said: “It isn't a blame game or about politics.
"It’s much more important.
"This is about how do we as a species deal with what is potentially an existential threat to our existence."
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