The task of every COVID-19 origin theory is to explain a human outbreak in Wuhan, China, when the closest wild relatives of SARS-CoV-2 are located far away, 1700 km to the South West.
In public, virologists have tended to say that the proximity of the outbreak to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which uniquely specialises in collecting, studying, and enhancing, SARS-related coronaviruses, is a coincidence. Instead, they point to the nearby Huanan seafood market as the probable spillover site, even though it is similar to thousands of others in China.
A Huanan market origin has officially been dismissed by the authorities in China. Nevertheless, on February 25th a preprint authored by George Gao, head of China’s CDC, and 38 other Chinese virologists appeared that seems intended to settle the issue (Gao et al., 2022).
The Gao article concludes, based on several lines of evidence, including a lack of correlation between positive virus samples and stalls that sold animals, that the Huanan market was simply an amplifying event. These authors do not specify how they thought the virus did first emerge, except to note that virus samples reported from other countries predate their Huanan market sampling by several months. This conclusion is in line with Chinese government statements that SARS-CoV-2 came from outside China.
Just sixteen hours later, on February 26th, two preprints appeared simultaneously that directly contradict the Gao conclusions. The senior authors of these companion articles are an overlapping set of very high-profile virologists. None are from China….