We began hearing about the coronavirus at the end of December, remember? According to stories at the time, the first victim possibly contracted the disease after buying or eating something nasty and obscure – like a bat — from the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China.
The Chinese government has cracked down on travel within its own country to contain the spread of the virus. The city of Wuhan as been completely quarantined and some reports estimate at least 760 million people in China, or more than half the country’s population, are on some sort of residential lockdown – or at least supervision.
Not only is the Chinese government having trouble controlling its population, it’s struggling with the facts as well.
As we reported here, China’s official statistics for the number of Coronavirus cases was being wildly understated. Literally overnight (from February 12 to 13), the number of new Coronavirus cases in China jumped from about 2,000 to nearly 15,000.
At about the same time, at least four senior government officials were fired in Hubei province, and dozens more health officials in low level roles across the country have also been sacked.
Business Insider says "The oustings come amid widespread suspicion that the government may have suppressed the information and punished people who spoke out."
Now China is beginning to change its story a bit. The Global Times, China’s official English-language outlet, published a story over the weekend saying a new study indicates the coronavirus did not originate in the Huanan seafood market after all.
The study published on ChinaXiv, a Chinese open repository for scientific researchers, reveals the new coronavirus was introduced to the seafood market from another location, and then spread rapidly from market to market.
The study believes that patient zero transmitted the virus to workers or sellers at the Huanan seafood market. The crowded market facilitated the further transmission of the virus to buyers, which caused a wider spread in early December 2019.
What is that “other location” where the virus started? No one is saying officially yet, but there are some very odd…shall we say...coincidences.
Per the New York Post, "At an emergency meeting last Friday in Beijing, China’s President Xi Xi Jinping spoke about the need to contain the coronavirus and set up a system to prevent similar epidemics in the future."
"A national system to control biosecurity risks must be put in place “to protect the people’s health,” Xi said, because lab safety is a “national security” issue."
Oh. Lab safety is the issue? Not safety in the seafood markets?
The very next day, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology released a new directive titled: “Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus.”
Guess how many “microbiology labs” there are in China that handle “advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus”? Just one.
And guess where that Level 4 microbiology lab is located? Correct. Wuhan. It’s called the National Biosafety Laboratory, part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Now here’s the really coincidental part. As recently as November of 2019, The Wuhan Institute of Virology had a job posting for one or two post-doc fellows, who will use "bats to research the molecular mechanism that allows Ebola and SARS-associated coronaviruses to lie dormant for a long time without causing diseases” in the lab of Dr. Peng Zhou (周鹏), Ph.D.
So far, we don’t know if those jobs were ever filled, or if the young fellows who got those jobs, along with their lab mates studying bats, ever shopped at the Huanan seafood market.
And Dr. Peng Zhou hasn’t been in the news lately either…