By India Today World Desk: The possibility that the Covid virus leaked from a laboratory should not be ruled out, a former top Chinese government scientist has said.
The view of China's Centre for Disease Control (CDC) former head, Professor George Gao, is in stark contrast to that of the Chinese government, which dismisses any suggestion the virus may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
"You can always suspect anything. That's science. Don't rule out anything," Prof Gao said in an interview for the BBC Radio 4 podcast - Fever: The Hunt for Covid's Origin.
Professor Gao is now vice president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China after retiring last year from the CDC, where he played a key role in the pandemic response and efforts to trace Covid's origin.
In a possible sign that the Chinese government may have taken the lab leak theory more seriously than its official statements suggest, Prof Gao said that some kind of formal investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was carried out, the BBC reported.
"The government organised something," he said, but added that it did not involve his own department, the China CDC.
It's the first such acknowledgement that some kind of official investigation took place, but while the professor said that he has not seen the result, he has "heard" that the lab was given a clean bill of health.
"I think their conclusion is that they are following all the protocols. They haven't found [any] wrongdoing," he said.
The virus that causes Covid, it is almost certain, once came from bats. But how it got from bats to us is a far more controversial question, and from the start, there were two main possibilities.
One is that the virus spread naturally from bats to humans, perhaps via other animals. Many scientists say the weight of evidence suggests that is the most likely scenario.
But other scientists say there is not enough evidence to rule out the main alternative possibility - that the virus infected someone involved in research which was designed to better understand the threat of viruses emerging from nature.
Those two alternatives have found themselves at the heart of a geopolitical stand-off since the pandemic outbreak.