Coronavirus: Did Wuhan lab shutdown in October? Cellphone data fuels conspiracy theories

  • There are claims made by officials and experts about Wuhan Institution of Virology

  • Cell phone data revealed that the high-security laboratory which has been studying Coronaviruses was shut down in October 2019

  • Olympic silver medallist Elodie Clouvel and her boyfriend recently revealed that they fell ill after taking part in the Military World Games

China's Wuhan lab has been in the news for a while as many claimed that the virus escaped from the facility before it stared infecting millions of people in the world. Now a private analysis of cell phone location data showed that the high-security laboratory which has been studying Coronavirus was shut down in October 2019.

As reported by NBC News, it was revealed there was no cellphone activity in the high-security portion of the Wuhan Institute of Virology from October 7 through October 24. A report obtained by the London-based NBC News Verification Unit suggested that there may have been a "hazardous event" sometime between October 6 and October 11.

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Cell phone data Reuters

If the lab was suddenly stopped operating in October, which has not been confirmed by Chinese officials or Wuhan lab authorities, it could be seen as evidence of a possibility being examined by US intelligence agencies that the novel Coronavirus had emerged accidentally from the Chinese scientific facility.

As per many scientists, the more likely scenario is that the virus was transmitted to humans through animals in a Wuhan market. Even the World Health Organization said on Friday that the "wet" market played a role in the spread of the COVID-19.

The Coronavirus outbreak and the origin of the virus

Wuhan Institute of Virology, China
Wuhan Institute of Virology, China Twitter

As per reports, the first known Coronavirus case in China has been traced back to November 17. But some researchers have questioned the timeline as a COVID-19 case has been documented in France in December.

The recently obtained report claimed that pandemic began "earlier than initially reported" and it "supports the release of COVID-19 at the Wuhan Institute of Virology." But the document doesn't show any direct evidence to support that assertion.

It should be noted that the report seems to account a tiny fraction of the cell phones expected in the Wuhan lab which has hundreds of employees. Dr Just Vlak, a Dutch virologist who visited a nearby satellite facility of the Wuhan lab in November and met with the head of bio-security of the lab told NBC News that it has 200 to 300 staffs. The document also says that annual international conference planned for early November in Wuhan lab appeared to have been cancelled.

As per US intelligence agencies reports based on publicly available, cellphone and satellite data suggested that the lab was closed, said two US officials familiar with the matter. But after analysing own data and overhead imagery, the agencies were unable to confirm any shutdown and claimed that the reports are "inconclusive."

One US official said that currently, analysts are examining the October and November data for suggesting any anomalies at the Wuhan lab, high-security facility in an adversary nation which has been studying dangerous pathogens. After Sen Marco Rubio became aware of the report, he took it to Twitter and wrote: "Would be interesting if someone analyzed commercial telemetry data at & near Wuhan lab from Oct-Dec 2019. If it shows dramatic drop off in activity compared to previous 18 months it would be a strong indication of an incident at lab & of when it happened."

Olympic silver medallist and her boyfriend fell ill in October

However, scientists started to suspect that the coronavirus was already being transmitted among people a lot earlier than the world knows, following testimony from a well-known French athlete. Olympic silver medallist pentathlete Elodie Clouvel and her boyfriend recently revealed that they fell ill after taking part in the Military World Games, which took place held in Wuhan between October 18 and 27.

As per Clouvel, doctors told her that it was likely that she had caught COVID-19. As per the recent reports, other French team members have also claimed that they also fell ill. But the French army has denied all knowledge of anyone contracting the disease during the games.

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