The missing evidence in the COVID origins debate – Axios

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The inability to pin down COVID's origins has opened the door to politically charged speculation and fierce debate, but without concrete evidence, people are forming narratives based on incomplete information with major geopolitical consequences.
Why it matters: The lingering questions about how the virus emerged could likely only be filled through intelligence or new information gathered from Wuhan, China, in the early days of the pandemic.
Driving the news: The Department of Energy recently concluded — with "low confidence" — that the virus most likely originated from a lab leak, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
State of play: The debate boils down to whether it's more likely the virus spread from infected animals — such as at a live market in Wuhan to people at and around the market — or that researchers at a laboratory in Wuhan accidentally became infected with a virus being studied and then spread it to others.
Details: Supporters of the live animal market origins theory argue that, similar to the first SARS pandemic in 2003, COVID jumped from infected animals held at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market to humans at the end of 2019.
The other side: Lab-leak proponents argue Wuhan is a known international hub of coronavirus research, and there were earlier signs of biosafety problems at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Scientists also haven't ruled out direct infection from bats, either naturally or in the course of gathering samples for labs. Bloom says all of these scenarios are plausible.
The big picture: Despite all of the furor over the last week, there isn't any new data that's been made public.
Beijing maintains it is being "open and transparent" in the search for COVID's origins, and has pointed the finger back at the U.S. But a World Health Organization investigation in the country raised concerns that investigators weren't given enough access to data and samples.
What we're watching: The standoff points to a need to better mitigate the risks posed by both zoonotic diseases that jump from other animals to humans and lab accidents.