It was built to withstand a magnitude-7 earthquake. But can the Wuhan lab at the center of the world's deadliest outbreak survive the storm of scrutiny? Experts aren't so sure.
It was China's "pride and joy." The 2015 compound was supposed to show everyone that the communist regime could compete with the world's scientific superpowers. Now, five years later, billions of people who had never heard of Wuhan are zeroing in on the facility that may turn out to be Ground Zero of the worst global catastrophe in a century. For months, U.S. officials had warned about the lab's weaknesses -- and, according to Fox News, raised alarms about "a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory." From a public health perspective, the U.S. embassy cautioned, the lab could be dangerous.
They were right. By December, China's own scientists were dying. And when the virus finally landed on American soil, Asian expert Gordon Chang was convinced the outbreak pointed -- not to a wet market -- but to the lab itself. Two months later, the evidence seems to agree. "Since [February]," he told me on "Washington Watch," "we've learned a lot more." The most important thing is the research from a British medical journal that found no connections between COVID-19 and the wet market. Then, Gordon pointed out, about two weeks ago, "China started opening up its wet markets across the country... Why would they open them up if they thought there was going to be another epidemic? I think that right now we can say that the lab in Wuhan is the source of the epidemic. Beijing knows. And Beijing should tell us."
The problem is, Gordon explained, China is worried about its reputation -- which, thanks to the release of the coronavirus -- is in complete tatters. "Remember, this is a P4 lab. This is the highest level of security for a biological lab. And that indicates that China has been basically incompetent in protecting [its] contents." At one point, the lab bragged on its website about housing more than 1,500 strains of coronavirus inside. "And right now, we have seen that their protocols are terribly insufficient."
Of course, countries like America would have more conclusive evidence if China allowed our scientists to go to Wuhan and study the virus. But Beijing refuses to let the international community in to see the lab for itself. "So we don't have epidemiologists on site in Wuhan working with their Chinese counterparts." If anything, Gordon shakes his head, the communist party has clamped down even further. Starting last week, Beijing demanded to see any scientific paper on the coronavirus before it can be published -- which is, no doubt, another attempt to censor whatever findings point back to Chinese negligence.
And unfortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been too busy carrying China's water to demand answers. Their cooperation in this cover-up has given countries like America no reason to believe that they'll be the watchdogs countries are paying them to be moving forward. So how do we ensure this doesn't happen again? The answer, Gordon says, is to start isolating ourselves -- no matter how difficult or controversial that might be.
"The United States, for all its power, does not have the ability to make sure that that Wuhan lab adheres to the proper protocols, which means that we really have to reduce our contacts with China to protect ourselves in the future. If you can't reform the system, you've got to cut it off. And although that's unfortunate and a lot of people don't want to do that... we can't afford to go through another pandemic."