Uncovering the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the Virus that caused Covid-19 and caused a global pandemic in March 2020, has become one of the scientific community’s most pressing concerns. But, like so many other coronavirus-related topics, the project has become bitterly contentious, fraught with international consequences, and loaded with conspiracy theories and politically motivated posturing, at least in the United States.
Since the early days of the epidemic, when the world first learned of the newly emerged “novel” coronavirus, two conflicting explanations have dominated the debate. The first, and for a long time the most likely narrative, is that the Virus originated in nature, jumping from its natural reservoir in a bat, through an unknown intermediary species, and into humans (perhaps at or near a “wet market” in Wuhan, China), where it spread like wildfire.
The laboratory-leak theory is divisive and politically charged. The Chinese authorities categorically deny any such possibility. Early in the pandemic, unproven charges in the United States gave it the appearance of a partisan witch hunt. And other members of the international community, particularly the World Health Organization, have attempted to address the issue while discreetly without offending anyone.
The politics got overbearing during a global epidemic, a public health calamity that would eventually result in more than 3.75 million deaths around the world. It became so controversial that openly discussing it, let alone evaluating it scientifically, sparked a storm, with motivations being questioned and layers of accusations and counter-accusations erupting.