It is a rare glimpse inside the Chinese laboratory at the centre of mounting inter-national suspicion about the Covid-19 pandemic – and will do nothing to dispel fears that it was caused by a catastrophic leak which has been covered up by Beijing.
Pictures from inside Wuhan’s secretive Institute of Virology show a broken seal on the door of one of the refrigerators used to hold 1,500 different strains of virus – including the bat coronavirus which has jumped to humans with such devastating effect.
The pictures, first released by the state-owned China Daily newspaper in 2018, were published on Twitter last month, before being deleted. One comment attached read: ‘I have seen better seals on my refrigerator in my kitchen.’
The Mail on Sunday revealed a fortnight ago that Ministers now fear that the pandemic could have started as the result of a leak.
Pictures from inside Wuhan’s secretive Institute of Virology show a broken seal on the door (centre of shot, by medical worker’s right eye) of one of the refrigerators used to hold 1,500 different strains of virus
The pictures, first released by the state-owned China Daily newspaper in 2018, were published on Twitter last month, before being deleted
Last week, this newspaper also disclosed that the institute had undertaken corona-virus experiments on bats captured more than 1,000 miles away in Yunnan, funded by a $3.7 million grant from the US government.
Sequencing of the Covid-19 genome has traced it to the bats found only in those caves.
Our revelations led to Donald Trump being quizzed at a press conference last week about the leak theory, to which the President replied: ‘We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation.’
Twitter was immediately awash with criticisms regarding the apparent lack of safety measures
Mr Trump also pledged on Friday evening to scrap Us funding for the Wuhan institute.
Meanwhile, Us secretary of state Mike Pompeo has demanded that Beijing ‘come clean’ over whether the virus had leaked from the lab. He said: ‘There is still lots to learn.
The US government is work-ing diligently to figure it out.’ He added that one of the best ways that China could find to co-operate would be to ‘let the world in and let the world’s scientists know exactly how this came to be, exactly how this virus began to spread’.
Suspicions of a Chinese cover-up increased further after the Wash-ington Post reported that Us diplomats in Beijing had written cables about the Wuhan laboratory in 2018, warning the state Department that ‘the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARs-like pandemic’.
US intelligence sources say that shortly after the coronavirus outbreak began, officials at the lab destroyed samples of the virus, erased early reports and sup-pressed academic papers – and then tried to pin the blame on Wuhan’s wet market, where wild animals are sold for consumption.
The sources believe that ‘Patient Zero’ was an intern at the lab, who spread the virus into the local population after infecting her boyfriend.
One source described it as ‘the costliest government cover-up of all time’. After initially accepting the wet market theory, intelligence officials in the US, Britain and Canada are increasingly focusing on the Wuhan institute, not least because of the level of coincidence required for the bats in Yunnan to have infected animals in Wuhan, which then passed it on to humans.
Following a video meeting of the G7 nations on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said: ‘There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about.’
The World Health Organisation, which faces allegations of complicity with Beijing over the pandemic, quickly accepted and propagated the wildlife market theory.
Although British Government sources say that the evidence suggests that the virus was ‘zoonotic’ – originating from an animal – that is still compatible with the theory that it first passed to humans as a result of an accident by scientists studying it in a laboratory.
However, one political source said that there was ‘growing scientific curiosity’ over the symptoms of a marked loss of taste and smell in many victims of Covid-19. ‘This might – only might – indicate a level of human interference,’ the source said.
Beijing insists that the fact that the country’s primary virology institute is based in the city at the centre of the outbreak is just a coincidence, dismissing links to the laboratory as ‘baseless conspiracy theories’.
In a letter to The Mail on Sunday, a Chinese Embassy spokeswoman says: ‘There has never been any cover-up, nor was a cover-up ever allowed to happen.
The relatively low Covid-19 death toll in China proves that the containment measures are effective. strict lockdown measures have effectively slowed down the spread of the virus and minimised the cases of infection.