Prominent NYC scientist backtracks on ‘natural origin’ of COVID-19

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A prominent New York City microbiologist said Friday that “disturbing information” has led him to reverse course regarding his belief in the “natural origin” of COVID-19.

Peter Palese was among 27 scientists who signed an influential statement last year in the British scientific journal The Lancet that denounced as “conspiracy theories” the notion that the coronavirus could have escaped from a lab — or even be man-made.

But Palese — chairman of the Microbiology Department at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where he runs a lab named after him — said he’s no longer convinced that’s the case.

“I believe a thorough investigation about the origin of the COVID-19 virus is needed,” Palese told the Daily Mail.

“A lot of disturbing information has surfaced since the Lancet letter I signed, so I want to see answers covering all questions.”

Palese declined to specify that information or say what led him to sign the Lancet statement, the Daily Mail said.

In the Lancet statement, the signatories expressed “solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China,” and added: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

On Thursday, Vanity Fair revealed that the statement was secretly organized by Peter Daszak, president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance.

That organization gave nearly $600,000 in US taxpayer money to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, which conducts research on coronaviruses and is suspected of being the source of COVID-19.

In January, the State Department said the WIV has been collaborating on secret projects with China’s military since at least 2017.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has since said he’s “convinced” that COVID-19 was the result of a lab leak and accused the Chinese government of covering it up.

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