A year-long hunt by The Mail on Sunday and Western intelligence officers for a Chinese language lab researcher believed to be the world’s first Covid-19 affected person has been thwarted by a suspected state cover-up.
Huang Yanling, who labored on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was named as Affected person Zero in on-line reviews that had been extensively shared inside China within the early weeks of the outbreak final February. The revelation created a direct hyperlink between the pandemic and the lab suspected to have by chance unleashed it whereas conducting harmful experiments on bat coronaviruses.
The reviews didn’t say when she contracted the virus or if she survived. Nevertheless, they help the US State Division’s perception she was the primary of a number of researchers on the controversial institute who fell ailing with Covid-19 within the autumn of 2019, earlier than it was formally acknowledged.
‘PATIENT ZERO’: The one image thought to point out lacking former Wuhan lab employee Huang Yanling (left)
Chinese language authorities and lab officers stepped in swiftly to disclaim the reviews on the time and take away them from the web, claiming Huang was protected and nicely elsewhere in China.
A publish purporting to be from Huang appeared on WeChat, China’s equal of WhatsApp, telling colleagues and academics on the institute she was alive and insisting the reviews had been false.
The message learn: ‘To my academics and fellow college students, how lengthy no communicate. I’m Huang Yanling, nonetheless alive. In the event you obtain any e mail [regarding the Covid rumour], please say it’s not true.’
A separate publish by her former boss, Professor Wei Hong Ping, claimed Huang left the institute in 2015 and had contacted him by telephone to disclaim the reviews.
A day later, a Chinese language information company made a obscure declare to have spoken to her new employer with out offering particulars.
Inexplicably, nevertheless, Huang has disappeared from social media and has not been heard from since being recognized as Affected person Zero, whereas her biography and analysis historical past have been scrubbed from the institute’s web site.
Virtually one yr on, the one hint of the scholar researcher is a grainy image of her salvaged from the institute’s web site and circulated on the web.
Within the days after the preliminary reviews, bloggers and web customers in China suspicious of officers’ denials pleaded with Huang to make a public look to show she was alive. ‘To cease this hearsay spreading, Huang ought to simply come ahead and do a blood check,’ stated one. One other posted: ‘Regardless of the place you reside, Huang, you can be discovered.’
China’s web censors shortly stamped out dialogue of Huang, and intensive enquiries inside the nation by The Mail on Sunday, together with messages to her former colleagues, have failed to show up any hint of her.
Chinese language authorities is beneath rising strain to disclose the true origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: Researcher at a lab in Wuhan
Huang stays an enigma, the one image of her displaying a lady in her 20s with lengthy hair, peeking out from behind a colleague. Her identify is included among the many writers of three scientific papers issued by the Wuhan institute between 2013 and 2015, together with analysis into staphylococcus micro organism.
Western governments and intelligence businesses are additionally understood to have tried and did not find Huang amid a ferocious crackdown on any problem to China’s official narrative that the outbreak has no hyperlink to the Wuhan facility.
In its assertion yesterday, the US State Division complained that the Chinese language Communist Occasion had prevented investigators and world well being authorities from interviewing researchers on the Wuhan institute ‘together with those that had been ailing within the fall [autumn] of 2019’.
‘Beijing continues at this time to withhold very important data that scientists want to guard the world from this lethal virus and the following one,’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added.
China’s reluctance to provide Huang to quash the alleged rumours has fuelled the idea that she is both useless or is being held by the state to cowl up the institute’s culpability for the pandemic. It has additionally generated lurid hypothesis about her destiny, with some claiming Huang will need to have been swiftly cremated. ‘Everybody on the Chinese language web is looking for Huang. Most consider she is useless,’ stated one blogger.
In the identical month that Huang was named as Affected person Zero, a consumer of Chinese language social-media platform Weibo, claiming to be a researcher in Wuhan, alleged the virus had leaked from the institute.
The lab denied the allegation and stated the declare got here from an abroad impostor posing as one in every of its researchers.