Once dismissed as a conspiracy theory, the idea that the covid virus escaped from a Chinese lab is gaining high-profile attention. As it does, reputations of renowned scientists are at risk — and so is their personal safety.
At the center of the storm is Peter Daszak, whose EcoHealth Alliance has worked directly with Chinese coronavirus scientists for years. The scientist has been pilloried by Republicans and lost National Institutes of Health funding for his work. He gets floods of threats, including hate mail with suspicious powders. In a rare interview, he conceded that he can’t disprove that the deadly covid-19 virus resulted from a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology — though he doesn’t believe it.
“It’s a good conspiracy theory,” Daszak told KHN. “Foreigners designing a virus in a mysterious lab, a nefarious activity, and then the cloak of secrecy around China.”
But to attack scientists “is not only shooting the messenger,” he said. “It’s shooting the people with the conduit to where the next pandemic could happen.”