Coronavirus

Li-Meng Yan: "Coronavirus is a biological weapon"

Now living in exile in the United States, the Chinese virologist reiterated on Spanish television that the virus is the creation of the Chinese military.

Li-Meng Yan: "Coronavirus is a biological weapon"

Spanish investigative journalist Iker Jiménez scored a major television hit when his recent special on the coronavirus pandemic 'Horizonte. Informe COVID' aired on the Telecinco network securing a notable 18.2% audience share. During the show, Jiménez interviewed Chinese virologist Li-Meng Yan, who has been forced to flee from her native China following her views on the origin of the virus.

Once again Yan claimed that the covid-19 virus originated in a military laboratory overseen by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Yan, who says she was among the first researchers to study covid-19 in China, has previously told the media that the virus is not naturally occurring and described the widely held theory that it originated in a so-called wet market in Wuhan as “a smokescreen.”

Yan also said that China and the WHO were aware of the existence of covid-19 long before the first cases were reported in Wuhan last December. The WHO declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic on 11 March.

Anybody, even people without any knowledge of biology, will be able to read it and check it, and to verify it for themselves. The genome sequence is like a fingerprint. Based on that, you can identify things. I will use this evidence to tell people why this [the coronavirus] came from a laboratory in China and why they are the ones who developed it", she claimed to Jiménez after she was enlisted to look into the origin of the virus by superior Leo Poon.

Dr Yan fled China in April and has been in hiding in the US for fear of reprisals regarding her revelations. She has claimed that China has launched a campaign to discredit her and to smear her reputation. “They deleted all information about me and also told people to spread rumours about me,” she said. In an earlier interview, Yan said that China was aware of the existence of covid-19 long before the first cases were officially reported in Wuhan last December.

MEXICO-HEALTH-VIRUSA man walks past a coronavirus-related mural, in Acapulco, Guerrero state, Mexico, on May 1, 2020. (Photo by FRANCISCO ROBLES / AFP)

Report

In he summary report published in September, Yan and her team suggest that the novel coronavirus was developed “as a laboratory product created by using bat coronaviruses ZC45 and/or ZXC21 as a template and/or backbone.”

The report states that “ZC45 and ZXC21 were discovered between July 2015 and February 2017 and isolated and characterized by the aforementioned military research laboratories.” It also says that when a non-military lab, the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, published a Nature article reporting “a conflicting close phylogenetic relationship between SARS-CoV-2 and ZC45/ZXC2 rather than with RaTG13, was quickly shut down for ‘rectification.’”

The report also accuses several publications of bowing to political pressure or of experiencing “conflicts of interest” so as not to publish findings that differ from the natural origin theory. “The existing scientific publications supporting a natural origin theory rely heavily on a single piece of evidence – a previously discovered bat coronavirus named RaTG13, which shares a 96% nucleotide sequence identity with SARS-CoV-2,” the report states.

A scientist works at the microbiology laboratory of the Gregorio Maranon General Hospital in Madrid

Dismissed

Following the publication of the paper, many scientists quickly hit back at the claims made in the document. Scientists say the evidence indicates that the coronavirus is “far more likely” to have occurred naturally and noted that the study has not been peer reviewed.

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “This particular conspiracy around deliberate release from a laboratory has been doing the rounds throughout the pandemic. It has been rebutted several times already. Ultimately, it could be damaging to public health if reported uncritically without looking at the wider evidence. If people are exposed to and then believe conspiracy theories, this will likely have a negative impact on efforts to keep covid-19 cases low and thus there will be more death and illness than there needs to be.”