No, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is not a biological weapon. But that doesn't mean the virus didn't escape from a laboratory. A growing body of circumstantial evidence indicates that very well may be what happened.
When the novel coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, emerged from China, conspiracy theorists -- including a prominent cable news host -- were quick to point out that Wuhan is host to a "biological weapons" lab. Thus, according to the conspiracy, the virus was a leaked bioweapon.
There are two gigantic problems with that theory. First, there is no reason to believe that the Wuhan laboratory is in the business of producing biological weapons. The lab is a high-security facility, known as biosafety level 4 (BSL-4), similar to the ones we have at the CDC in Atlanta.
Second, the SARS-CoV-2 genome was sequenced by China and released to the public (and subsequently sequenced many more times). If China actually built a biological weapon, they would not have handed over the recipe so quickly and easily. Besides, a study published in Nature Medicine uses a genetic analysis to show convincingly that the virus evolved in an animal and jumped into humans.
But that doesn't mean the "jump" occurred in a wet market, as was assumed at the beginning of the pandemic. The reason that assumption was made was two-fold: (1) It's the simplest and most likely explanation; and (2) It happened before with SARS.
As the weeks and months have gone by, however, circumstantial evidence is piling up that the virus actually came from the Wuhan BSL-4 laboratory. Once again, it is not a biological weapon. Instead, it appears that Chinese scientists were studying a novel virus they found, and it accidentally infected a worker and "escaped" from the lab.
Evidence that SARS-CoV-2 Came from the Wuhan Lab
An excellent investigative report by Jim Geraghty for the center-right National Review extensively documents the evidence. The highlights of his report include:
- Job postings at the Wuhan facility for scientists to study coronaviruses and bats.
- An announcement that new viruses had been discovered.
- When she learned of the outbreak, a Chinese virologist known as "Bat Woman" (because of her hunt for viruses in bat caves) wondered if the virus came from her lab.
- The virology institute denied the existence of the person rumored to be "patient zero", a grad student named Huang Yanling. Information about her has been removed from the institute's website, and her whereabouts are unknown. The institute now claims she is in good health.
Now, CNN reports that China is censoring any research related to the origin of the virus. According to the article, an online announcement said that "[s]tudies on the origin of the virus will receive extra scrutiny and must be approved by central government officials."
That announcement, as it so happens, was later removed, providing the best evidence yet that China is once again covering something up.