COVID-19 lab theory: Footage shows bats reportedly housed at Wuhan Institute of Virology

The  footage comes after US President Joe Biden ordered aides to review COVID-19 origins.
The footage comes after US President Joe Biden ordered aides to review COVID-19 origins. Photo credit: Getty Images

A new video revealing bats were housed in the Wuhan Institute of Virology contradicts the World Health Organization's investigations into the origins of COVID-19. 

The institute, where scientists study dangerous pathogens, is at the centre of a theory pushed by the likes of former US President Donald Trump, that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a lab. 

Footage obtained and released by Sky News, reportedly from a 2017 Chinese Academy of Sciences video aimed at promoting the opening of the lab, shows live bats kept in cages.

It also shows researchers, who are reportedly from the lab, out catching bats and feeding them. 

The footage comes as G7 countries intensify their calls for another investigation into the origins of COVID-19 - despite a joint WHO-China study in March saying the virus was probably transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that a lab leak was "extremely unlikely". 

The WHO-China study - first reported on by the Associated Press - said the idea bats were kept at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was "an error". 

But the lab theory has gained traction again after US President Joe Biden in May ordered aides to review COVID-19 origins and revealed US intelligence agencies are looking into theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.

Last December, WHO member and zoologist Dr Peter Daszak wrote a series of Tweets explaining the lab did not hold bats: "No BATS were sent to Wuhan lab for genetic analysis of viruses collected in the field. That's not how this science works. We collect bat samples, send them to the lab. We RELEASE bats where we catch them.

"This is a widely circulated conspiracy theory. This piece describes work I'm the lead on and labs I've collaborated with for 15 years.

"They DO NOT have live or dead bats in them. There is no evidence anywhere that this happened. It's an error I hope will be corrected." 

The Sky News video seems to contradict these statements with shots showing bats were held at what reportedly is the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In June Dr Daszak backtracked: "We didn't ask them if they had bats. I wouldn't be surprised if, like many other virology labs, they were trying to set up a bat colony," he wrote to Twitter.

Chinese officials have consistently rejected the lab leak hypothesis, saying SARS-CoV-2 could have been circulating in other regions before it hit Wuhan, and might have even entered China from another country via imported frozen food shipments or wildlife trading.

The WHO-China report said three laboratories in Wuhan working with coronaviruses had "well-managed", high-quality biosafety levels.

The lab leak theory has recently spiked in popularity but according to experts, there is no new scientific evidence to back it. 

Dr Siouxsie Wiles told RNZ earlier this month that there was "nothing to support the lab leak theory and lots to support the natural origins [theory]".