As US President Joe Biden's deadline for the intelligence community to hand over the report of the origins of coronavirus approaches, Australia's right-wing newspaper The Australian and some US tabloids are churning out another vicious rumor that the "coronavirus comes from a Chinese lab." This time they smeared the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention (NIVDC) under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"A Beijing laboratory director was infected with Covid-19 in a lab accident in early 2020, explosive emails have revealed, showing an inadvertent leak of the highly contagious coronavirus is far from a conspiracy theory," The Australian claimed in a report on Friday, adding that "a senior scientist at a prestigious laboratory, the National Institute for Viral Disease Control, allegedly contracted Covid-19 in his laboratory in early 2020 while researching the virus, prominent virologists say," the report claimed.
Regarding the accusations in the report, the Global Times learned from a source close to the NIVDC on Monday that the report was a complete lie. A person familiar with the situation told the Global Times that one researcher at the institute did become infected early last year but that person belonged to the institute's viral hepatitis division, which has nothing to do with the coronavirus research work. His office and his activities were located on the second floor of the institute and he had no access to the samples or to the P3 laboratory on the sixth floor of the building.
According to the source, the researcher was infected out of the workplace early last year when the COVID-19 epidemic was much severe in China. Relevant departments in Beijing have visited the NIVDC to investigate the case and confirmed that the infection process was not connected to the laboratory. This case was also included in Beijing's COVID-19 infection data and there was no "cover-up" as alleged in some reports.
How was this vicious rumor fabricated? According to the right-wing US media National Pulse, a group called the US Right To Know Foundation obtained the email exchange under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In a February 14, 2020 email exchange, Shan-Lu Liu, a virologist based in Ohio, said that the former director of the NIVDC, where he previously worked "has now been infected with SARS-CoV-2." Subsequent emails show him reiterating that "he was infected in the lab."
However, another source close to the NIVDC told the Global Times on Monday that Liu had left the institute for "at least more than a decade" and that it was impossible for him to know what was going on at the institute as researchers were not close to him.
The Global Times found Liu got master degree in Viral Infectious Diseases at the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine (now CDC). The Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine was transformed into the CDC on January 2002, which means Liu's intersection with the NIVDC occurred at least 19 years ago.
It's worth noting that it is The Australian's Sharri Markson that fabricated this report. Markson has previously fabricated many rumors regarding the novel coronavirus, including claims that it may be a "biological weapon" developed by China.
Markson has her routine to make fake news: the first step is to find an unreliable source and get information which may be nonsense or get a few words out of context; the second step is to label it as "leaked documents" under the guise of "intelligence agency" to create a "mysterious sense of trust;" the third step is to distort the truth to attack China in her report. This time, the "Beijing lab mishap" adopted the same method.