It has only been 24 hours since Washington Post quietly edited its 2020 story where it branded any suspicion that the COVID-19 originated from a Wuhan lab as a conspiracy theory.
Senator Tom Cotton, along with former President Trump, had spoken about the possibility of Covid-19 originating from a lab leak in Wuhan, China, in 2019. Speaking to Fox News, Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton had pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a potential origin of the disease. “We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” Cotton had said, adding, “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”
In its article published on February 17, 2020, the Washington Post had described Senator Cotton’s claim as “debunked” and a “conspiracy theory.”
Now, over 15 months later, as lab leak theories are gaining renewed attention, and with President Biden announcing a probe to look into the possibility of the lab leak of the Covid-19, Washington Post has quietly edited its previous report that questioned Senator Cotton’s similar claims. The correction by the Washington Post comes after multiple scientists and experts have said it was not possible to rule out the theory that the coronavirus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Fauci has since publicly shifted his tone, acknowledging in recent days that the virus may indeed have come from a lab. Until recently, Fauci said it is “highly likely” that the coronavirus has a natural origin. However, a few days back, Fauci finally admitted that he was “not convinced” that coronavirus developed naturally. In fact, the Biden administration even constituted a task force to investigate the origins of the novel Coronavirus.
But what led to this change of heart? What led to the realising dawning upon the USA and several other entities that the Coronavirus could be, contrary to the theory being peddled for the past 15 months, a virus that came out of a lab in Wuhan?
Early in the year 2020, when the world was just about starting to come to terms with the global pandemic that had been unleashed on it, a group of people started doubting the popular narrative around the pandemic. While the mainstream media insisted that COVID-19 had originated in the Wuhan wet market and the virus had mysteriously jumped to humans, there was a discreet group, who called themselves DRASTIC, which started investigating the threads that would eventually lead the world to take note of the lab-leak hypothesis and doubt the popular narrative.
DRASTIC, abbreviation for Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19, is a group of individuals interested in finding the true origins of Covid-19. They are not journalists or spies but engineers, entrepreneurs and individuals across various disciplines. The group works anonymously, unearths never-seen-before documents from the internet and puts them out in the public domain. Although the members have limited resources, they are motivated by curiosity and zeal to spend days in pursuit of the truth.
One of the people who belongs to DRASTIC, connecting the dots over the past 15 months and unearthing evidence that gives credence to the lab leak theory, is an Indian man who goes by the name ‘The Seeker’.
On the 6th of February 2021, The NewsWeek wrote an interesting article about how a group of amateur researchers were unearthing evidence regarding the origin of COVID-19 and ‘The Seeker’ was in the middle of it.
OpIndia looked him up recently, and got in touch with him via Twitter DM, trying to verify if it was indeed him who had been quoted by the NewsWeek. Armed with that confirmation, we spoke to ‘The Seeker’, and Indian man who is a part of an amateur group making global headlines.
‘The Seeker’, in his mid-20s, used to be a science teacher. From there, he studied architecture, painting and filmmaking. He told OpIndia that he had then moved on to a project that allowed him to follow his passion – working on audiobooks. He had even started working on that project in Delhi when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and he then moved back to his native place.
It was in April 2020 when ‘The Seeker’ stumbled upon a Medium post written by Canadian entrepreneur Yuri Deigin which led him to consider alternative explanations of how the pandemic started.
Rossana found that RaTG13 virus had similar genetic makeup to a virus called Ra4991 whose partial fragment was deposited in 2016. This further intrigued ‘The Seeker’, who then posted it on his Reddit account. After posting extensively and questioning the origin of COVID-19, Reddit decided to suspend ‘The Seekers’ account permanently.
“One day my reddit account was permanently suspended all of a sudden. I suppose the reason was that I posted a flurry of articles that suggested lab leak as a possibility”, he said. On being asked how he felt about the blatant censorship, ‘The Seeker’ said, “Honestly, the Reddit suspension was the best thing that happened to me. It made me migrate to Twitter. It was through Twitter that I met the other members of DRASTIC and other scientists which kickstarted my journey into researching the origins of the pandemic”.
‘The Seeker’ says that at that point, there were about a dozen people in DRASTIC, who were looking into the origins of COVID-19. Now there are more than 2 dozens. He also says at least 3 people were censored by Twitter and their accounts were permanently suspended.
“I suppose their account got suspended because they were saying that COVID-19 was a bio-weapon. You shouldn’t make such assertions and communicate it as a certainty. You have to keep it open ended and just give people the facts”, ‘The Seeker’ said.
After he started researching, he says that initially, he had several interactions with scientists from across the world over video-calls and that is where the brainstorming session started.
Over the next year, the team dug up a lot of information. The Seeker was convinced that the mystery behind SARS-COV-2 lay in the RaTG13 virus. He and other members of DRASTIC began crawling research papers of Wuhan Institute of Virology on the internet.
The genetic code of RaTG13 matched another genetic code posted by Shi Zhengli years ago. DRASTIC determined that the virus originated in a mineshaft in Mojiang County in the Yunnan Province of China in 2012. The team found that 3 out of six miners had died while three of them developed pneumonia. The team was left wondering whether this was a precursor to the pandemic. Although Shi Zhengli had accepted that she worked in the said mineshaft but claimed that the 3 miners died due to fungal infection.
Using his online research skills, The Seeker found CNKI, which is a huge database of Chinese academic journals and theses. Fueled by tea and occasional arcade games, he scrolled through the database for days until he struck gold. The Seeker found a 60-page thesis authored by a student at Kunming Medical University in 2013. Titled, “The Analysis of 6 Patients with Severe Pneumonia Caused by Unknown Viruses,” the paper found that the miners had died of SARS-like Coronavirus. He shared it on Twitter on May 19, 2020.
In the same month he found a PhD thesis supervised by Gao Fu, the director of China CDC, and it became known that four of the miners had SARS-like antibodies. It also gave the GPS co-ordinates of the mineshaft.
He worked in close association a Madrid based data scientist named Francisco de Asis de Ribera. The Seeker found new pieces of the Coronavirus puzzle while Ribera fitted the pieces together. He discovered detailed plans of Wuhan Institute of Virology to test the infectivity of SARA-like viruses in lab animals and human cells, undergo cross-species mutation and genetic recombination of the viruses. He also stumbled upon a database hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology in China. The Seeker found that the theses were supervised by Shi Zhengli herself.
When asked to what extent he now believes that the COVID-19 virus was now a virus found in nature, The Seeker said that he was 80-90% sure. “I am extremely sure. But, I would like to keep that margin of error because the research is going to go on and I don’t want to claim anything with certainty.”
With his extensive research, we asked him why his name is surfacing only now and whether the mainstream media had got in touch with him at all. “I have had a numerous international journalists and authors get in touch with me, but hardly anyone from India until now. Maybe one or two”. He further said, “Indian journalists hardly seem to be interested in documenting the vast evidence that has come to the fore”.
With such overwhelming evidence, one has to wonder why the scientists across the world, along with journalists, are so squeamish to talk about the lab-leak theory and the mounting evidence that circumstantially support it. ‘The Seeker’ attributes this strange phenomenon to former-USA President Donald Trump.
“If Donald Trump had said that COVID-19 suddenly jumped from animals to humans and had endorsed the wet market theory, then the media and the scientists would have focussed on finding the true origins of COVID-19. Since Trump suggested that COVID-19 came from a lab, everyone had to be contrarian. The media completely shut its eyes to what was right in front of them. Trump is largely to be credited for people talking about the origins of COVID-19 and the media shutting its eyes to it”.
With months of research, ‘The Seeker’ believes that the most plausible theory about why COVID-19 came from a lab, he says that there is evidence to show that USA and China were working on a pan Coronavirus vaccine. ‘The Seeker’ spoke about Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit research group that ran a large international program to survey natural pathogens with the potential to cause a pandemic. Daszak had been collaborating for years with Shi Zhengli, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and a renowned bat virologist. Daszak co-authored nearly a dozen papers with Shi and funnelled at least $600,000 of U.S. government grants her way. He was also someone who was working with WHO to investigate the origins of the virus.
When doubts were being raised about the origins of COVID-19, Peter Daszak along with other scientists had written a letter condemning the speculations. In February 2020, the letter published in Lancet said, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin”.
He says there are other papers that showed that the vaccine program was being worked on by the USA and China, and according to him, that is the most plausible explanation for why COVID-19 originated in a lab and could have leaked from there in the process.
‘The Seeker’ says that these pieces of the puzzle are just at the surface level and a lot of work needs to be done still to trace the origin of the virus, that originated in Wuhan, China and killed millions across the world.
Meanwhile, Anthony Fauci has made new extremely comments on Thursday regarding the virus in the mines. He said, “I would like to see the medical records of the three people who are reported to have got sick in 2019. Did they really get sick, and if so, what did they get sick with?”
“The same with the miners who got ill years ago . . . What do the medical records of those people say? Was there [a] virus in those people? What was it? It is entirely conceivable that the origins of Sars-Cov-2 was in that cave and either started spreading naturally or went through the lab,” Fauci said further.