A SCIENTIST dubbed “Patient Zero” who vanished from a lab at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak is still missing despite a year-long search.
Virus expert Huang Yanling was named online in China during the very first worrying reports of the deadly pandemic back in February of last year.
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The claims created a link between the pandemic and the Wuhan Institute of Virology -which houses zoonotic bat diseases – and sparked fears the virus was accidentally leaked during experiments.
China’s reluctance to produce Huang has fuelled the theory she is either dead or is being held by the state to cover up the institute’s role in the pandemic, reports the Mail on Sunday.
The US State Department’s believe she was the first of several working at the controversial institute who fell ill in the autumn of 2019 – months before it was officially acknowledged.
State officials in Beijing were quick to quash the reports at the time and insisted Huang was safe and well.
And amid speculation over her whereabouts, her bosses denied she had been harmed and claimed she had completed her studies in another part of China.
A post said to be from the scientist later appeared on the WeChat messaging service informing colleagues she was alive and claiming the reports were false.
It read: "To my teachers and fellow students, how long no speak. I am Huang Yanling, still alive. If you receive any email [regarding the Covid rumour], please say it’s not true."
Since then Huang appears to have vanished from social media and any mention of her appears to have disappeared from the institute’s website.
The US State Departmentsays the Chinese Communist Party had prevented investigators from interviewing researchers in Wuhan "including those who were ill in the fall [autumn] of 2019."
"Beijing continues today to withhold vital information that scientists need to protect the world from this deadly virus and the next one," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added on Saturday.
Accusations of a cover-up by the Chinese government have been repeatedly dismissed and pressures for a full investigation into the lab suspected of being the source of coronavirus have so far been resisted.
But the US has always insisted China is to blame, with Donald Trump vowing to declassify bombshell secret intelligence linking the virus to their science facility.
Pompeo revealed new studies from the US intelligence claim that scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill in the autumn of 2019 – earlier than previously believed – with symptoms consistent with Covid.
"This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli's public claim that there was 'zero infection' among WIV's staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses," Pompeo said.
He spoke after a US government official said the most "credible" theory around the origin of coronavirus is that is escaped from the lab in Wuhan.
Top aide to Trump Matthew Pottinger claimed leaders in China are "admitting" there is a chance theories suggesting Covid-19 started in a "wet market" are false.
Pompeo called on the WHO to investigate the lab in question, just one day after a team from the organisation landed in Wuhan.
The team is set to look into the 'wet market' originally linked to early infections, but there are believed to be no plans to investigate whether the virus accidentally escaped from the lab.
Pompeo suggested it was a natural virus that had accidentally escaped the lab, rather than it been a man-made virus that was purposelessly released.
A briefing document from the State Department read: "Accidental infections in labs have caused several previous virus outbreaks in China and elsewhere, including a 2004 SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people, killing one."
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