A top United States official said recently that the "most credible" theory for how the coronavirus pandemic started is that the pathogen escaped from a Chinese laboratory.
What are the details?
U.S. deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger told British parliamentarians last week that even Chinese leaders have started to acknowledge that the virus did not originate in the Wuhan wet market as initially reported. Instead, he said, it likely escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology located just 11 miles away.
"There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus," Pottinger said during a Zoom conference about China, according to the Daily Mail. "Even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story."
Whether the virus escaped by "leak or accident," he could not confirm.
The theory has been widely disseminated since earlier this year, when citizen investigators used publicly available information to make the case.
Reporters noticed all-too-coincidental job openings posted by the lab in November and December 2019 — right as mysterious pneumonia-like cases were popping up in Wuhan — which requested scientists to come "research the relationship between the coronavirus and bats" and indicated that help was needed to handle a dangerous leak.
That is not to mention the fact that the lab was the first in all of China to achieve BSL-4 clearance, or the level of bioresearch safety required to study the world's most dangerous pathogens. Though some thought that clearance was granted prematurely.
Shortly after the discovery of the job postings, a pair of leaked State Department cables from 2018 found that U.S. officials visiting the lab were so concerned about its "serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators" in concert with its study of "SARS-like coronaviruses in bats" that they felt the need to notify the U.S. government.
According to the Daily Mail, Pottinger's confidence in the theory comes as a result of conversations the U.S. has had with a whistleblower from the Wuhan lab.
"I was told the US have an ex-scientist from the laboratory in America at the moment," said former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who attended the meeting. "That was what I heard a few weeks ago."
"I was led to believe this is how they have been able to stiffen up their position on how this outbreak originated," he added.
Pottinger's comments come as a team of experts from the World Health Organization prepare to travel to Wuhan to investigate the pandemic's origins, though some critics fear the investigation won't reveal anything given the organization's coziness with China.