18:06 GMT27 January 2021
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    The origins of the coronavirus have been a mystery since the onslaught of the pandemic. However, while many suggested that it was artificially created in a lab, where a leak could have occurred, the WHO has repeatedly denied this version, emphasising its natural roots

    Norwegian virologist Birger Sørensen has claimed that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 stems from a laboratory and was leaked by mistake. In an interview with the Swedish news outlet Fria Tider, Sørensen alleged that the fact that the virus doesn't come from the animal kingdom is "evident" both from its structure and from its rapid spread among humans.

    “I firmly believe that it was spread by accident. When US authorities conducted an inspection in Wuhan in 2018, it was described as a risk lab,” Sørensen told Fria Tider.

    The Norwegian virologist pointed out that there are proven cases where viruses have been leaked from laboratories, and that it is therefore not very controversial to claim that this particular virus also has such an origin.

    “There are many laboratories that have botched it and released viruses by mistake. The original Sars virus was released from Singapore,” he pointed out, referring to an incident in November 2003.

    “There are many examples of viruses leaked from class 3 and class 4 laboratories. I think the coronavirus leaked as early as the second half of August, early September 2019. There is a lot to suggest that,” Sørensen said.

    The Norwegian researcher believes that the quick spread of the virus indicates that it has already been adapted for humans by laboratories researching viruses on human cells.

    Sørensen emphasised that so far, no one has succeeded in proving that it actually evolved naturally.

    “There is no one who questions that it must be proven that the virus comes from nature. You have to prove that it comes from nature, otherwise it comes from a laboratory,” Sørensen said, stressing that there is plenty of research on lab-made viruses.

    When the corona pandemic erupted, Sørensen teamed up with British oncologist Angus Dalgleish and statistician Andres Susrud to research it. Their first report, which deals with how the virus binds to receptors in humans, was published in May this year by Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics Discovery.

    However, their second study, with an eye-grabbing headline, “The Evidence Which Suggests That This Is No Naturally Evolved Virus” was declined by numerous peer-reviewed publications, by Sørensen's own admission. Sørensen faced harsh criticism from the scientific community. Among others, Kristian Andersen, a professor of immunology and microbiology at the Scripps Research laboratory in California, has dismissed their report as “complete nonsense, unintelligible, and not even remotely scientific”. However, Sørensen, Dalgleish and Susrud remain convinced that the coronavirus comes from a laboratory.

    According to Sørensen, there is strong opposition to studies where research laboratories are singled out as scapegoats due to the strong interests for the public not to question how research is conducted.

    “The scientific community doesn't want to discuss issues that may hinder future virus research,” he mused, emphasising that there are many different purposes for researching viruses, and that not everyone is about stopping diseases and pandemics. “There is an aspect of being able to use such viruses as weapons that shouldn't be ruled out,” Sørensen concluded.

    Virologist and vaccine researcher Birger Sørensen is familiar face in Norway. When the swine flu broke out in 2009, he frequently appeared in the media over his work on the vaccine. He also received a lot of attention over his research on Ebola and HIV.

    Claims that the virus may have leaked from a laboratory at the Wuhan Virology Institute, one of China's most innovative laboratories, with the highest security rating, have been around for months, ranging from fringe discussions to political accusations, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US President Donald Trump, who repeatedly called Covid-19 the “Chinese virus”. However, the claims have been refuted as “pure fabrication” by the the institute's management, which stressed that the lab has never had viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2.

    In November, the World Health Organisation released a plan to investigate the origins of the Covid pandemic. The search will start in Wuhan – the Chinese city where the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was first identified. Most researchers think the virus originated in bats, but how it jumped to people remains unknown. Previous coronaviruses have passed from an intermediate animal host.

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    virus, coronavirus, COVID-19, Scandinavia, Norway
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