WHO scientist wants closer look at Wuhan lab that moved days before COVID-19 outbreak

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A Wuhan lab that was quietly moved by Chinese officials in December 2019 — drawing scrutiny from a World Health Organization scientist — operated under a mild safety level protocol where workers weren’t necessarily required to wear masks, officials said in reports.

At least one employee of the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention facility — different than the city’s much-discussed Wuhan Institute of Virology — tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies due to “a family cluster transmission,” though it’s unclear when the tests were conducted, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a World Health Organization report.

The lab, where Chinese scientists research mild human diseases with bats, was moved near the seafood market where the first COVID-19 cases were found just days before the outbreak, WHO investigators said.

Classified with a “Biosafety Level of 2,” the lab also has ventilation controls that aren’t as strict as other more secure facilities, according to the report.

The revelation comes as Dr. Ben Embarek, the Danish head of a WHO-led team of investigators that probe the viruses’ origins, said in an interview this week that more information is needed about the lab’s move.

“It’s interesting that the lab relocated on the 2nd of December 2019: That’s the period where it all started,” Embarek, a food safety and animal diseases expert, said in a documentary that aired on the Danish television channel TV2.

“We know that when you move a lab, it disturbs everything…That entire procedure is always a disruptive element in the daily work routine of a lab,” he said.

Despite his previous assertion that it’s “extremely unlikely” the virus leaked from a lab in China, he now considers the theory a “probable hypothesis,” he said in the interview.

His team’s findings note that the Wuhan CDC moved the facility just days before the onset of the first known case of COVID-19 on Dec. 8, 2019 — and that such relocations “can be disruptive for the operations of any laboratory.”

But it also noted that the lab reported “no disruptions or incidents” due to the move.

In the documentary, Embarek also revealed that his team was pressured by Chinese officials not to pursue the lab leak theory.

They may have steered WHO scientists away from probing the theory because there was “human error behind such an incident” and a feeling among the Chinese that “you should not lose face,” he said.

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