A series of job listings posted by the Wuhan Institute of Virology weeks before the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city has reawakened the conspiracy theory which suggests that the deadly virus was leaked by a Wuhan lab.

As pointed out by the National Review, the Wuhan Institute of Virology posted a job listing on November 18, 2019, for "scientists to come to research the relationship between the coronavirus and bats."

Looking for scientists to conduct research on 'coronavirus and bats'

Coronavirus
Xinhua/IANS

"Taking bats as the research object, I will answer the molecular mechanism that can coexist with Ebola and SARS- associated coronavirus for a long time without the disease, and its relationship with flight and longevity," reads the Google translation of the posting. "Virology, immunology, cell biology, and multiple omics are used to compare the differences between humans and other mammals."

On December 24, 2019, the institute posted a second listing. The duties and responsibilities of the job posting included "long-term research on the pathogenic biology of bats carrying important viruses has confirmed the origin of bats of major new human and livestock infectious diseases such as SARS and SADS, and a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified."

According to Matthew Tye, a China-based documentary filmmaker and YouTuber who makes videos based on information obtained from public records, the second listing essentially translates to "we've discovered a new and terrible virus, and would like to recruit people to come deal with it."

This is in line with the timeline of the outbreak. On December 31, about three weeks after doctors reported the first cases, the Chinese government notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of a "mystery pneumonia" that had hospitalized dozens of people in the city of Wuhan.

Was COVID-19 leaked accidentally?

A recently discovered Chinese documentary has added further fuelled the conspiracy theory. As previously reported, a seven-minute documentary film, posted online in December, shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak began, shows the lab's researcher Tian Junhua and his colleague exploring a cave to capture the nocturnal creatures for samples while wearing protective suits.

In the documentary, Tian himself expresses the dangers of coming in close contact with bats due to the potential exposure to a host of viruses carried by them. Tian once failed to wear protective gear in a cave and as a result, was exposed to bat urine. In order to avoid contracting a disease, he was forced to quarantine himself for 14 days – the same self-isolation period recommended for people exposed to COVID-19. You can watch the documentary below:

The revelation that the institute collected bat viruses for research combined with the fact that Wuhan virology lab is located just a few hundred yards away from the Huanan wet market, which was identified by health officials as the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, has led many to believe that the first COVID-19 infection may have occurred due to a laboratory accident and the job postings will give conspiracy theorists more evidence to support their claim.