Right off the bat, they were lying

The debate continues as to the origins of Covid. With each new hypothesis, it would appear the real questions that should be considered are being buried deeper.

On 28 February 2024 an interesting article was published on the Substack channel The Sovereign Mind. The title of the article is, But, where’s the bat? [1] The author, Shiven Chabria, argues that the virus called SARS-CoV-2 could not have originated in bats; it must have leaked from a lab in Wuhan China. He outlines several “coincidences” to support this thesis, and concludes that “the statistical odds these occurrences were a result of some massive magical coincidence seems highly improbable.” His article is well referenced and carefully thought out. Since the first thread in the comments mentions Nick Hudson (founder of PANDA), we thought it appropriate to respond to the article, especially since the topic is a recurring one.

In this response we will look at each of the “coincidences” he mentions in his article. In particular, we wish to draw attention to how little is known about these issues, and how many unanswered questions there still are. We also hope to establish that debates about “Covid’s origin” usually involve unstated and unsubstantiated assumptions and therefore typically end up obscuring more important issues.

Coincidence #1

The seafood “wet market” that many claimed was the epicenter of the pandemic is literally a few miles away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and testing of the animals came up empty.

Although it is true that many have claimed that Wuhan was the epicenter, this does not mean that it was. All that we know for sure is that Wuhan was the location of the first recorded cases.[2] Does anyone know how many cases preceded these first reported ones? Was anyone testing for Covid in June of 2019? Indeed, multiple researchers have found evidence that the virus was present in countries other than China many months before the first recorded case in Wuhan.[3, 4, 5]. Moreover, China’s CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) concluded the same, publicly asserting that “The novel coronavirus had existed long before” the outbreak in Wuhan.[6] We too have written about this issue.[7] Therefore it is not at all certain if Wuhan was the epicenter of a world-wide outbreak.

Furthermore, even if some level of an outbreak did happen in Wuhan in early 2020, based on what happened in the rest of China, there is no evidence that that outbreak was the beginning of a pandemic.[8] If the Wuhan outbreak had negligible effect in China, how could it have had anything to do with what happened in the rest of the world over the course of the following three years?

Moreover, the claim that “animals came up empty” (that is, the virus was not detected on any animal samples) has implications for both theories, whether lab leak or zoonotic. Coronaviruses (CoVs) not only jump from animals to humans, they also jump from humans to animals.[9] How is it possible that thousands of people from Wuhan were infected with a CoV without animals being simultaneously infected, especially if most of the infected people had been around animals at that market?

Coincidence #2

Wuhan Institute of Virology scientist, Dr. Zhou Yusen, filed for a patent for a COVID vaccine on February 24, 2020. The early timing of his filing raises concerns that the unnamed vaccine was in development months before the COVID-19 pandemic became public….

It is certainly remarkable that a patent on a vaccine was filed less than two months after a virus was supposedly first discovered. China, however, was not the only country where this happened. Indeed, ten days earlier, on 14 Feb. 2020 Moderna announced that it had developed its Covid vaccine and was poised to begin clinical trials on humans.[10] Does this mean that there was a lab leak in one of Moderna’s facilities? The idea borders on the absurd, for Moderna developed their product without having any viral samples on hand; working solely from the genetic sequence (of SARS-CoV-2) that China had published online only 34 days earlier. 

Preceeding even Moderna, INOVIO developed their shot only “3 hours” after the sequence was published online, and by 23 January were already engaging in clinical trials of the product.[11] Was there a lab leak in Plymouth Pennsylvania (the home of INOVIO)? 

Instead of asking if there was a lab leak, shouldn’t we be asking why so many pharmaceutical companies decided that the “pneumonia of unknown etiology” in Wuhan was worth spending millions of dollars on? This question is especially relevant when it is noted that multiple pharmaceutical companies made the decision to focus on Covid before total deaths worldwide had exceeded one thousand.[12] Did they know something that we didn’t? 

Significantly, this second “coincidence” assumes that researchers in Wuhan honestly felt they were capable of developing a life-saving vaccine for a respiratory virus, something that is highly unlikely given past failures of previous attempts.[13]

Further, even if a leak from a lab in Wuhan did happen months earlier than the first recorded case, what does the fact that nobody noticed it tell us about how lethal or virulent this supposedly novel pathogen must have been?

Coincidence #3

We know that Wuhan lab workers were the first COVID patients.

Do we really know this? Given that SARS-CoV-2 has subsequently been found to have existed in many countries prior  to 2020, wouldn’t it be more correct to say that we have no idea who the first Covid patients were? We simply weren’t testing for it. Lab workers in Wuhan may have been among the first reported cases, but it is distinctly possible that they were not the first patients.

Coincidence #4

China destroyed all records from the lab…. There are also no source samples [of coronaviruses]….. Wuhan lab researchers had reported virus sequences to the NIH registry but then called in June 2020 to ask for that information to be deleted.

We have been unable to verify whether or not China destroyed all their lab records. But China does admit they destroyed some CoV samples.[14] The reason given was “biosafety.” On the first of January the Chinese shut down the Wuhan market. Some days later they destroyed coronaviruses in labs. This seems to us to be evidence that the Chinese themselves were uncertain what was happening or why, and were simply taking every precaution. Precaution during uncertainty should not be confounded with prescience on account of certainty.

It is true that scientists from the WIV did upload several genomic sequences to the NIH sequence read archive and then subsequently requested those same sequences to be withdrawn. The NIH complied and removed the sequences from public access.[15] Emails from the owner of the sequences, however, reveal that this request was made in order to prevent confusion on account of the sequences being uploaded elsewhere.[16] Also, not only were the sequences available and openly discussed in published papers [17], but it was always possible to extract the sequences from cloud servers. Further, “the sequences recovered from the deleted data set are partial and lack full metadata. Therefore, it is impossible to unambiguously place them phylogenetically….” [18] And finally, according to an email received from the NIH, about 4,560 records are withdrawn from the archive on a yearly basis. In other words, China was hiding nothing, did nothing unusual, and the withdrawn sequences served little use.

Coincidence #5

Wuhan lab conditions were abysmal.

The only real evidence offered in support of this claim is that the WIV had put out a request for bids to renovate its air conditioning system. It is quite possible that this information, far from testifying to sloppy protocols, might instead be hinting that the WIV was spending large sums to insure its laboratories remained world-class. For the record, the WIV “is a large complex with multiple buildings that house 20 Biosafety Level II (BSL-2) laboratories, two Biosafety Level III (BSL-3) laboratories, and 3000 square meters of Biosafety Level IV (BSL-4) space.”[19] The BSL4 lab first opened in 2018, making it unlikely that in only two years it had fallen into a state of disrepair.

Coincidence #6

There existed a concrete plan to experiment on bat viruses with the specific aim of enhancing their ability to infect and spread between humans…. The… disclosure… include[s] drafts and planning materials for the DEFUSE proposal, a $14 million grant application submitted in 2018 to DARPA by American scientist Peter Daszak and Wuhan Institute of Virology in which they proposed engineering high-risk coronaviruses of the same species as SARS and SARS-CoV-2 by enhancing (aka gain of function) SARS like bat viruses.

These claims miss the mark. The DEFUSE proposal had two stated goals: first, to identify the risk of a SARS related coronavirus jumping from bats to humans; and second, to reduce that risk.[20] The first was to be accomplished by documenting bat colonies in south Asia, determining what viruses the bats were carrying, and doing experiments to see how readily those viruses infect humanized mice. The second goal was to be accomplished by large scale vaccination of bat colonies to stop the transmission of these viruses. The stated benefit of the research was to protect US soldiers in south Asia from getting sick after encounters with bats. It is doubtful if this benefit was really necessary. And, it is questionable if either goal could ever have been achieved. The project was rejected by DARPA. Therefore this proposal is irrelevant to the question of Covid’s origin. 

(On the outside chance that the project found other sources of funding, we emailed Peter Daszak directly to find out if any of the proposed work has begun yet, but to date have received no reply.)

The Bombshell Defused

Despite the lack of significance of the DEFUSE proposal, it is the “bombshell” coincidence used in The Sovereign Mind article to support the lab-leak hypothesis. Since so much space is given to it, it is appropriate to consider some of the more important claims that were made about the proposal and its authors. We examine six claims.

Claim #1

These experiments were to occur in part in Wuhan with fewer safety precautions than required in the U.S. — ostensibly to save on costs. American scientists concealed this from their desired funder — to evade any national security concerns about doing high-level biosecurity work in China.

This is factually incorrect on two points. First, the proposal expressly mentioned “WIV” as the location of proposed work more than a dozen times. Second, there was no need to evade security concerns because the project did not involve that level of experimentation. The executive summary says expressly that the planned engineering used “backbones” that were “exempt from gain of function concerns.”

Claim #2

SARS COV-2 seemed completely at home inside human cells and spread remarkably easily from human to human (something animal viruses infecting humans struggle with), possibly because it had already been adapted in humanized laboratory mice to the human cell receptor.

The problem with this statement is that two weeks after the supposed outbreak in Wuhan had begun, some five million people from Wuhan left their city and traveled all over China to celebrate the coming Chinese New Year. Despite this “super-spreader event,” only a few people in the other provinces got sick, and within weeks the outbreak had fizzled out and died off completely.[8] Thus, if the outbreak did start in Wuhan, then the virus was not very transmissible. If the outbreak did not start in Wuhan, then the WIV had nothing to do with it. Either way, the lab-leak hypothesis is on shaky ground.

Claim #3

SARS COV-2 possesses a furin cleavage site, found in none of the other 871 known members of its viral family.

It is true that a furin cleavage site is not found in any of the known coronaviruses that have been placed in the same subgenus as SARS-CoV-2. Obviously, we know nothing about the unknown coronaviruses in this family. Moreover, “furin cleavage sites are widely present in the whole coronavirus family.” [21] Were all these other coronaviruses also the result of a lab leak?

Claim #4

Daszak and Baric were painfully aware that the gain of function research they proposed could mushroom-cloud to a full-blown pandemic.

This too is factually incorrect, as the very quotation they offer in support of this claim proves the opposite. Daszak said: “we MUST make it clear in proposal that our approach won’t drive evolution the wrong way (e.g. drive evolution of more virulent strain that then becomes pandemic…)” In other words,  Daszak and Baric felt it was impossible for their lab work with coronaviruses or their vaccination of bats to ever cause a pandemic. This concurs with what was said regarding claim #1 above, namely that there was nothing in their work that involved gain-of-function concerns.

Further, in Daszak’s statement of competing interests in his Lancet article [22] he says, “NIH reviewed the planned recombinant virus work and deemed it does not meet the criteria that would warrant further specific review by its Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight committee.” Therefore on at least three separate occasions Daszak affirmed that he felt his work did not have pandemic potential.

Claim #5

What are the odds that a bat virus… could perfect the ability to consistently infect humans on first try? … human to human transmission of animal viruses remains uncommon, and certainly not a pandemic level event because the virus machinery needs time to adapt to a human host and this process takes months or even years.

Who knows how many “tries” were made? Who knows if the virus came from a bat? Who says Covid was a “pandemic level event”? Who can say that it didn’t happen over several years? Who has any idea how common it is for animal viruses to pass from one human to the next? Despite all our efforts and research, mankind still knows very little about where viruses come from, how they jump from animals to humans, when they jumped, or what happens when they do. Of all the viruses in existence, few have ever been sequenced. None have been tested for like SARS-CoV-2,  leaving us hopelessly ignorant of what is normal, what is happening, and what existed before 2020.

Claim #6

The people who wrote the DEFUSE proposal also wrote the Lancet article which called anyone entertaining the possibility COVID came from the very lab they proposed doing gain of function experiments, almost exactly two years prior, a fearmongering, misinformation spreading racist, and then tried to cover up the blatant incestuousness of it all.

The Lancet article [22] referred to here did not call anyone a “fearmongering, misinformation spreading racist,” at least not as far as we can see. Rather, it was an affirmation that the authors were confident that SARS-CoV-2 did not originate in a lab. It is true that Daszak decided to sign his name to the letter. His initial hesitation may not have been to “cover up” his involvement in creating novel viruses, but on account of the fact that he had respected colleagues who  worked at the WIV. In reading through his emails, it seems plausible that he was simply deliberating about the right thing to do.

In essence, the main argument of all these “coincidences” and claims is that it had to be a lab leak because Daszak and Baric said it wasn’t. We suggest that this is a very weak argument, for not only did both men assert that it was impossible for their work to ever cause a pandemic, but they might just have the expertise to know.

Claim #7

Chinese authorities—knowing that attracting world spotlight would bring unwanted scrutiny and open Pandora’s box— underplayed the possibility of human-to-human transmission.

Actually, when we discovered how few Covid cases and deaths there were in China in early 2020 despite millions of people traveling for family gatherings, we also were forced to conclude that there was little to no evidence of human-to-human transmission of whatever caused the minor outbreak in Wuhan.[8] It is reasonable to think the Chinese authorities came to the same conclusions for the same reasons.

Other Claims

The Sovereign Mind article contains a few other claims that involve technical aspects of SARS-CoV-2 (restriction enzymes and restriction maps). To support these claims the author quotes from a paper written by Alex Washburne et al.[23] The main hypothesis of that paper, however, has since been adequately refuted by another paper.[24] The curious reader is invited to read both papers. 

Ending Question

The Sovereign Mind article began with a question: “But, where’s the bat?” It ended with an almost identical question: “Where are the sick bats?” There are several underlying assumptions in this question that are most likely false. This can be brought to light by asking three questions in response:

  1. Do we know if any bats got sick?
  2. Do bats get sick from coronaviruses?
  3. Where are the sick people?

Nobody knows if more bats got sick than normal during the past four years. The main reason we don’t know is that Dr. Daszak’s project DEFUSE (which planned to count bat populations) was never funded. 

Notwithstanding our limited knowledge, it is safe to suggest that bats were not getting more sick than normal, at least not on account of Covid. The reason is simple: bats are carriers of coronaviruses; but somehow “these viruses do not appear to cause disease in bats.” [25] Were bats carrying more SARS-like viruses on account of Covid? We don’t even know that.

Finally, we briefly examine whether or not Covid has caused an increase in the number of cases of sick people. Total Covid cases to date are estimated to be about 775 million.[26] While this may sound like a disproportionately large number, we argue that it is such a small number that it should be considered part of the normal respiratory illnesses that occur every year. Humans regularly get sick with some sort of respiratory illness, whether flus, colds, or the like. Few of these are ever diagnosed in a laboratory. In the US, the average person catches a cold three times every year.[27]. If this rate applies to the entire world, it means that in a typical four year period there are 96 billion cases of the cold (8 billion people x 3 cases/yr x 4 years). If we included the flu, this number would be even higher. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that over the past four years Covid amounted to less than 0.8% of the normal respiratory illnesses. Hence, the more appropriate question that we should be asking is: Where are the sick people?

In conclusion, if there was an “orchestrated cover up,” it was to conceal that:

  • Covid has been around a lot longer than anyone cares to admit, 
  • Covid was significantly less lethal and virulent than claimed,
  • the massive and unprecedented response to Covid was entirely unnecessary, and
  • untold suffering and death was caused by the response. 

It seems to us that the lab-leak controversy helps conceal these things.


  1. Chabria, Shiven, “But, where’s the bat?,” The Sovereign Mind, https://thesovereignmind.substack.com/p/but-wheres-the-bat 
  2. Anonymous, “Timeline: WHO’s COVID-19 response,” WHO, 2024, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/interactive-timeline#! 
  3. István Csabai, Krisztián Papp, Dávid Visontai et al. “Unique SARS-CoV-2 variant found in public sequence data of Antarctic soil samples collected in 2018-2019,” 23 December 2021, PREPRINT (Version 1) available at Research Square https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-1177047/v1 
  4. Apolone G, Montomoli E, Manenti A, et al. “Unexpected detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the prepandemic period in Italy.” Tumori Journal. 2021;107(5):446-451. doi:10.1177/0300891620974755 
  5. Antonella Amendola, et al, “Molecular evidence for SARS-CoV-2 in samples collected from patients with morbilliform eruptions since late 2019 in Lombardy, northern Italy,” Environmental Research, Volume 215, Part 1, 2022, 113979,ISSN 0013-9351, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935122013068
  6. Anonymous, “Wuhan’s Huanan seafood market a victim of COVID-19: CDC director,” Global Times, 2020, https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1189506.shtml
  7. Verduyn, Thomas, et al, “Was SARS-CoV-2 entirely novel or particularly deadly?” PANDA, June 2023, https://pandata.org/was-sars-cov-2-entirely-novel-or-particularly-deadly/
  8. Verduyn, Thomas, “Revisiting China: Did a Pandemic really start in Wuhan?” PANDA, 2024, https://pandata.org/revisiting-china-did-a-pandemic-really-start-in-wuhan/
  9. Tan, C.C.S., Lam, S.D., Richard, D. et al. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to animals and potential host adaptation. Nat Commun 13, 2988 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-30698-6
  10. Anonymous, “Protocol”, Moderna, DMID Protocol 20-0003 Version 1.0, mRNA-1273, 14 February 2020, https://www.nejm.org/doi/suppl/10.1056/NEJMoa2022483/suppl_file/nejmoa2022483_protocol.pdf
  11. Anonymous, “Inovio Accelerates Timeline for COVID-19 DNA Vaccine INO-4800,” INOVIO, Mar 2020, https://ir.inovio.com/news-releases/news-releases-details/2020/Inovio-Accelerates-Timeline-for-COVID-19-DNA-Vaccine-INO-4800/default.aspx
  12. Anonymous, “Covid Vaccine Tracker,” 2024, Milken Institute, https://airtable.com 
  13. Fauci, Anthony et al, “Rethinking next-generation vaccines for coronaviruses, influenza viruses, and other respiratory viruses,” 2023, Cell Host & Microbe, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2022.11.016
  14. Zhuang Pinghui, “China confirms unauthorised labs were told to destroy early coronavirus samples,” SCMP, May 2020, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3084635/china-confirms-unauthorised-labs-were-told-destroy-early
  15. Anonymous, “National Institutes of Health Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request,” C-Span, 2020, https://www.c-span.org/video/?520029-1/national-institutes-health-fiscal-year-2023-budget-request, beginning at time = 1:04:45
  16. Unpublished Emails between WIV and NIH sequence read archive, 2020, https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2021/06/29/2021.06.18.449051/F6.large.jpg
  17. Wang, Ming et al, “Nanopore target sequencing for accurate and comprehensive detection of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses,” medRxiv 2020.03.04.20029538; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.04.20029538
  18. Bloom, Jesse D. “Recovery of deleted deep sequencing data sheds more light on the early Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 epidemic,” bioRxiv 2021.06.18.449051; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.18.449051, Molecular Biology and Evolution doi: 10.1093/molbev/msab246
  19. McCaul, Michael, “The Origins of COVID-19: An investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” August 2021, page 14 https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/ORIGINS-OF-COVID-19-REPORT.pdf
  20. Daszak, Peter, “DEFUSE proposal,” 2018, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21066966-defuse-proposal
  21. Wu Y, Zhao S. “Furin cleavage sites naturally occur in coronaviruses.” Stem Cell Res. 2020 Dec 9;50:102115. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2020.102115. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33340798; PMCID: PMC7836551.
  22. Calisher, Charles, et al, “Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19,” Lancet, Feb 2020, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30418-9/fulltext
  23. Bruttel, Valentin, Washburne, Alex, VanDongen, Antonius, “Endonuclease fingerprint indicates a synthetic origin of SARS-CoV-2,” bioRxiv 2022.10.18.512756; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.10.18.512756
  24. Wu F. “Updated analysis to reject the laboratory-engineering hypothesis of SARS-CoV-2.” Environ Res. 2023 May 1;224:115481. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2023.115481. Epub 2023 Feb 18. PMID: 36804316; PMCID: PMC9937728.
  25. Arinjay, Banerjee et al, “Novel Insights Into Immune Systems of Bats,” Frontiers in Immunology, Vol 11, Jan 2020, doi=10.3389/fimmu.2020.00026
  26. Anonymous, “Cumulative Confirmed COVID-19 Cases,” OWID, Mar 2024, https://ourworldindata.org/covid-cases
  27. DerSarkissian, Carol, “Common Cold,” 2024, https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/common_cold_overview

Thomas Verduyn has an honors B.A.Sc in aerospace engineering. He has a wide range of work experiences including computer consulting, construction, transportation, accounting, and entrepreneurship. He is an avid reader of many different fields. He has published multiple books, is keenly interested in health, and is passionate about knowing God.

Publisher’s note: The opinions and findings expressed in articles, reports and interviews on this website are not necessarily the opinions of PANDA, its directors or associates.

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