An internet group called the Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19, or DRASTIC, brought the Coronavirus lab leak theory to the forefront again, questioning whether the Huanan wet market was, in fact, the origin of the pandemic.
The group is a medley of people from all over the world, many of whom choose to remain anonymous. The mish-mash of internet strangers includes unnamed “China Experts”, scientists, and people unidentifiable from their monikers, like EdgeOfTheLeaf, Coronavirus Movie, #GalileoPrinciple, or Carl. Their purpose is simple. To find out the truth behind the virus that has ravaged the world and left millions dead.
The group consists of exceptional individuals like Gilles Demaneuf, a data scientist from Auckland, Dr Monali Rahalkar and Dr Rahul Bahulikar, scientists in Biology from Pune, and The Seeker, a key member from West Bengal proficient in digging up data.
A prominent piece run by Newsweek reported: “We know that the WIV was actively working with these viruses, using inadequate safety protocols, in ways that could have triggered the pandemic, and that the lab and Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to conceal these activities. We know that the first cases appeared weeks before the outbreak at the Huanan wet market that was once thought to be ground zero.”
While the theory that the virus spread from a lab in Wuhan was largely dismissed by the world as a conspiracy theory when it first emerged in 2020, the reports and documents brought forward by DRASTIC have drawn international attention back to the purported eye of the storm, Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The prevailing theory explains the mishap as an unfortunate case of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, jumping from bats to humans at the ill-fated Huanan wholesale market in Wuhan.
DRASTIC maintains that the origin may lie with the six miners from the Mojiang mineshaft who fell sick in 2012. Later, three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which incidentally had been collecting batches of Coronavirus samples from the mineshaft, fell ill and required medical attention after a foray into a Yunnan bat cave weeks before the Huanan outbreak.
The theory that it may have been a laboratory accident gained momentum in May 2021 when an article in the journal science demanded a re-investigation of the virus origin. 13 scientists signed the science article.
Chinese authorities vehemently deny any and all such allegations, even as they delete documents and archives the lab leak researchers used.
Fuelled by these new findings, WHO chief Teodros Ghebreyesus reopened the lab leak theory on March 30, much to China’s outrage. American president Joe Biden ordered a re-investigation into the origin of the virus on May 26. The Chinese embassy in the US dismissed it as a smear campaign intended to shift responsibility and attention.
In the end, there is no definitive proof for any of the theories doing the rounds. Investigations from internet detectives to the World Health Organization and everyone in between continues as COVID-19 claims new victims with each passing day.