By Prof Lam Sai Kit

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Academician Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr. Lam Sai Kit is among a group of two dozen scientists who authored a new letter to The Lancet, reaffirming their view that the pandemic has a natural origin. 
“The new Lancet letter, published on Monday 5 July, provides the strongest peer-reviewed evidence in the scientific literature to date that the coronavirus pandemic emerged via a natural spillover event. This letter is a follow-up to our controversial letter published in February 2020 which supported Chinese scientists and dismissed the theory that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin,” he said.

This latest Lancet letter, as well as the original Lancet letter in February 2020, is signed by Prof. Lam as well as by many prominent scientists including Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the UK’s Sage advisory group, Dr Christian Drosten, a key figure in Germany’s pandemic response, Dr Josie Golding, epidemics lead at the Wellcome Trust and Dr. Gerald Keusch, Professor of Medicine and Associate Director, National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, Boston University.
Recently, Prof. Lam and others who signed the original letter were approached by the media, asking whether they still support what was said in early 2020. The latest Lancet letter said, “We reaffirmed our stand of solidarity with those in China who confronted the outbreak then, and the many health professionals around the world who have made personal sacrifices, and even their lives, in the relentless battle against the virus”.

In the last few months, many countries have called for further inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, including the possibility that it escaped from a lab in Wuhan. In a letter to research journal Science in May, 18 scientists called for the lab leak theory as well as the natural origin theory to be further investigated. 
US President Joe Biden also asked the US intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of the pandemic and come back with their results in 90 days. Also in May, there were several news articles which added to the debate, including one in the Wall Street Journal which claimed that 3 Wuhan Institute of Virology staff got sick in November 2019 with Covid-like symptoms and required hospitalization, implying a lab leak.

“News articles that do not present any science-based evidence will only create doubts among the readers.”

The authors of the letter believe it unlikely that the pandemic began after a lab leak, which is in line with the conclusion reached by the WHO-China Mission. The authors also call for scientifically rigorous investigations to be conducted by WHO and China to expeditiously move to continue and further extend their initial investigation based on the WHO’s report from March, 2021. 
The authors also strongly support the Group of Seven (G7) leaders’ call for “a timely, transparent, expert-led and science based WHO-convened phase 2 COVID-19 origins study.”

“Although this may take years of field and laboratory study to assemble and link data essential to reach rational and objective conclusions, but that is what the global scientific community must strive to do,” the authors said.

The Lancet letter added: “Allegations and conjecture are of no help, as they do not facilitate access to information and objective assessment of the pathway from a bat virus to a human pathogen that might help to prevent a future pandemic.

“Recrimination has not, and will not, encourage international cooperation and collaboration. New viruses can emerge anywhere, so maintaining transparency and cooperation between scientists everywhere provides an essential early warning system. Cutting professional links and reducing data sharing will not make us safer.”, the letter said.

“It is time to turn down the heat of the rhetoric and turn up the light of scientific inquiry if we are to be better prepared to stem the next pandemic, whenever it comes and wherever it begins,” the letter says.