When you look at the evolution of an animal you can see the stages whereby one organism evolves gradually to become another. Think of homo sapiens and all of the various intermediate steps between modern humans and the common ancestor we share with apes. Viruses, speaking very simplistically, follow the same pattern. You can see how they change over time and chart if you will their “family tree.”
Except in the case of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 – here we have a virus, which does not appear at all to follow developmentally from the strains we have seen appear since the pandemic began. In fact, it appears as if somehow, rather dramatically, Omicron emerged from the original strain of COVID-19 without any developmental connection of any kind to the other strains, like Delta, we have seen in the last two years.
How is that possible?
There are hypothetical scenarios in which Omicron has been out there all along, somehow escaping detection and only now emerging and spreading widely. None of these scenarios seem particularly plausible. If there is one thing, we seem to know about Omicron at this stage it is that it spreads like wildfire. It is very difficult to conceive then of scenarios in which this mutant virus flew below the radar for a year and a half and only then began to rampage around the planet.
Andrew Rambaut a professor of molecular evolution at the University of Edinburgh for one is not convinced it is possible that Omicron simply escaped detection until recently. He told Science: “I’m not sure there’s really anywhere in the world that is isolated enough for this sort of virus to transmit for that length of time without it emerging in various places.”
If Omicron did not evolve from any of the various mutations we have seen since the pandemic began, and it has not been somehow secretly and inertly lurking amongst us for many, many months, then where did it come from? And how is it possible that it emerged apparently directly from the original strain of COVID-19, a virus which is effectively extinct in the wild? The question is made all that more provocative by the way in which Omicron was announced to the world.
The first cases of Omicron were detected in Botswana. In announcing the discovery of the new strain, the Botswanan Ministry of Health and Wellness revealed that Omicron “was detected on four foreign nationals who had entered Botswana on the 7th of November 2021, on a diplomatic mission. The quartet tested positive for COVID-19 on the 11th of November 2021 as they were preparing to return.” These four diplomats became patients zero, one, two, and three to be infected with Omicron. Botswana has not revealed the nationality of the diplomats in question.
Botswana’s announcement suggests that a small team of individuals from an unknown nation outside Africa flew in and flew out of Botswana over a period of only a few days and stayed just long enough to spread the virus to the local population. Where did they come from? How did they get infected?
One possible explanation is that Omicron is not a naturally occurring virus at all. Everything we know about it would be completely consistent in fact with a scenario in which Omicron was man-made, created in a lab by someone tinkering with samples of the original COVID-19 virus.
At first blush, such a possibility seems like the stuff of science fiction. We should be careful though about dismissing things as conspiracy theories or fantasy. Two years ago, when this pandemic began the evidence that COVID-19 had escaped from a Chinese lab was overwhelming. We were told nonetheless to ignore that evidence and believe the story that the virus had sprung from a bat sold in a wet market in Wuhan. Only many months later did the “experts” grudgingly admit that the virus did in fact likely come from a Chinese bio lab.
Early on in the pandemic a number of scientists also pointed out that there were strong indications that COVID-19 was genetically engineered and likely the product of gain of function research funded in part by American taxpayers. Again, we were told that this was the stuff of QAnon conspiracy theorists and people in tin foil hats. Since that time – grudgingly – the pundits have accepted that gain of function research was in fact in progress in Wuhan and admitted that it is indeed possible that COVID-19 was a product of that research.
If we are to accept the possibility that Omicron is manmade, however, we must then consider the most immediate question. Why? Why would anyone, at this stage in the pandemic engineer and release a virus with Omicron’s characteristics? What could they possibly have to gain?
The answers to those questions at this stage are unknown. They should not be – nor should a myriad of other things concerning COVID-19 and its origins. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a shocking lack of serious scientific inquiry into where the virus came from and whether or not we are facing a naturally occurring event or a manmade one. A lot of powerful interests, the Chinese Communist Party, Big Pharma, Anthony Fauci, and others don’t want to talk about gain of function research, the details of vaccine development, and how long labs and scientists have been working on creating organisms that can threaten humanity. They should be forced to.
We have entered the age of pandemics – whether manmade or naturally occurring. We have talked about the dangers of diseases that threaten humanity spreading worldwide for decades. We are no longer talking about the threat. We are facing it.
The COVID-19 pandemic is almost certainly winding down. When it is over, we will not, however, in any sense return to the “normal” we knew before we ever heard of COVID. There will be others, natural or manmade, and we will have to sort out a much more effective means of combatting them. The first step is getting to the bottom of what has really happened in the last two years, including answering this question.
Is Omicron manmade?