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Wuhan lab leak: “I’m not naive enough to absolutely write this off”

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Australian scientist Danielle Anderson was the only foreign researcher at the Wuhan virology lab. Now, she’s speaking out for the first time.

Australian scientist Danielle Anderson was the only foreigner to undertake research at the notorious Wuhan Institute of Virology’s BSL-4 lab. She worked at the lab until November 2019, just months before the initial outbreak of Covid.

The Covid pandemic has been rife with conspiracy theories since its emergence. The most popular of these theories is that Chinese scientists manufactured the virus in the lab.

Some theorise it either leaked out by accident, or as an act of biological warfare. China’s lack of transparency over Covid’s origins have only fuelled these rumours.

Virologist Danielle Anderson

“It was just a regular lab”

Anderson says that inaccurate reporting has given the public and false perception of the Wuhan lab.

“It’s not that it was boring, but it was a regular lab that worked in the same way as any other high-containment lab,” Anderson says. “What people are saying is just not how it is.”

Anderson also says she was ‘impressed’ with the institute’s maximum biocontainment lab which has the highest biosafety rating.

There were strict protocols and requirements aimed at containing the pathogens being studied, Anderson says researchers needed to train for 45 hours before being certified to work independently in the lab.

“It’s very, very extensive,” she said.

“The pandemic is something no one could have imagined on this scale,” she said. “The virus was in the right place at the right time and everything lined up to cause this disaster.”

The US and Europe are among countries questioning the lab’s safety.

Anderson said no one she knew at the Wuhan institute was ill toward the end of 2019. Moreover, there is a procedure for reporting symptoms that correspond with the pathogens handled in high-risk containment labs.

“If people were sick, I assume that I would have been sick—and I wasn’t,” she said. “I was tested for coronavirus in Singapore before I was vaccinated, and had never had it.”

Last month, 18 scientists writing in the journal Science called for an investigation into Covid-19’s origin amid rumours of the virus leaking from the lab.

Anderson says that while unlikely, it’s not entirely impossible that the virus escaped the facility.

If presented with evidence that such an accident spawned Covid-19, Anderson “could foresee how things could maybe happen,” she said. “I’m not naive enough to say I absolutely write this off.” 

Although she remains firm in her belief that the virus emerged from ‘natural sources’ Anderson does think China should assist with an investigation to nail down Covid’s origin.

She said she’s dumbfounded by the portrayal of the lab by some media outside China, including attacks on scientists who worked at the lab.

Anderson herself has also been the victim of violent threats and misinformation, which led her to filing a police report last year.

Natasha is an Associate Producer at ticker NEWS with a Bachelor of arts from Monash University. She has previously worked at Sky News Australia and Monash University as an Online Content Producer.

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Ukraine expects Russian offensive this month

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Ukraine expects a possible major Russian offensive this month, but Kyiv has the reserves to hold back Moscow’s forces even though the latest Western military supplies will not all arrive in time

 
Russia could launch the new attack for ‘symbolic’ reasons around the first anniversary of its invasion, but its resources are not ready from a military point of view, Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov told a news conference.

“Despite everything, we expect a possible Russian offensive in February. This is only from the point of view of symbolism; it’s not logical from a military view. Because not all of their resources are ready. But they’re doing it anyway,” he said.

Russian forces have been making incremental advances in the east as Moscow tries to capture the embattled city of Bakhmut and revive its faltering invasion after a string of battlefield setbacks in the second half of last year.

Reznikov said the offensive would likely be launched in the east – where Russia is trying to capture all the heavily-industrialised Donbas region – or the south where it wants to widen its land corridor to the occupied peninsula of Crimea.

He estimated that Russia had 12,000 troops in Belarusian military bases, a number that would not be enough to launch a significant attack from Belarus into Ukraine’s north, reopening a new front.

The United States and other Western governments have pledged billions of dollars in new military assistance including tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to help Ukraine withstand a new attack as well as to help Kyiv launch a counteroffensive.

“Not all of the Western weaponry will arrive in time. But we are ready. We have created our resources and reserves, which we are able to deploy and with which we are able to hold back the attack,” Reznikov said.

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China describes spy balloon saga as ‘overreaction’

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China has strongly opposed the U.S. approach to the suspected spy balloon that was shot down – describing it as an overreaction

 
They also once again explained that this was a civilian airship that was simply monitoring the weather and was blown astray into US airspace.

These are claims that Washington have disputed.

It has been interesting to watch China’s reaction throughout this affair.

On Friday, when they first admitted that this balloon belonged to them, Beijing were apologetic and said they regretted how it had ended up in US territory.

It was an uncharacteristic approach from China who are usually more aggressive in these statements.

But as time passed, Beijing’s tone changed and they started to accuse U.S. politicians and the media of using this incident as a way of attacking China.

This affair has now renewed tensions between these two global superpowers, with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken cancelling his much-anticipated trip to Beijing at the last minute.

Although his visit was largely seen as symbolic – as opposed to making any substantive policy breakthroughs – it was still seen as another big step in repairing relations between China and the U.S.

Instead, face-to-face talks have been cancelled and it looks likely that it will now be some time before Secretary Blinken makes the journey to Beijing.

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Blaze burns down Buddhist temple in Australia

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A massive blaze burnt down a Buddhist temple in Australia

Footage shows fire engulfing Melbourne’s Bright Moon Buddhist Society Temple on Sunday evening.

More than 80 firefighters battled the blaze into the night as the fire quickly spread throughout the building.

It’s not yet known if anyone was inside when the fire started.

Roads in the surrounding area are closed as investigations into the cause of the fire are underway.

The temple is understood to draw thousands of visitors to the area each year.

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