There’s about a 0.1% Chance that COVID-19 Coincidentally Arose in Nature near the Wuhan Institute of Virology

Exploring if COVID-19 emerged by chance near Wuhan’s virology lab, this analysis uses a Feynman estimate, showing a 0.1% probability, based on lab distribution and the Earth’s land area. It doesn’t consider population density or natural habitats, while China’s investigational opacity exacerbates speculation regarding a lab origin despite historic leak rarity.

Did COVID-19 Spontaneously Arise Near a Virology Lab?

The COVID-19 initial outbreak occurred in Wuhan, China, near the Wuhan Institute of Virology, one of the few labs globally known for conducting research on novel coronaviruses. 

Estimate Methodology and Percent Likelihood

To evaluate the probability, we apply a simplified Feynman estimate with the following assumptions and calculations:

Global Distribution of Virology Labs: Assume hundreds of high-level virology labs worldwide, with 5 specifically known for novel coronavirus research.

Surface Area Consideration: The Earth’s land surface area is approximated at 149 million square kilometers.

Proximity Defined: We consider a “close proximity” to be within a 100 km radius of a lab, equating to an area of 31,400 square kilometers.

Combined Area of Influence: For 5 labs, the combined area of influence is

(5 \times 31,400 \text{ km}^2)

Probability Calculation:

\text{Probability (\%)} = \left( \frac{\text{Combined Area of Influence}}{\text{Earth's Land Surface Area}} \right) \times 100 = 0.1\%

This estimate suggests a 0.1% probability that COVID-19 spontaneously arose within close proximity to one of these labs by chance.

Additionally, the frequency of novel catastrophic coronaviruses arising in nature is low, with severe outbreaks (e.g., SARS, MERS) being relatively rare in human history.

Investigation Challenges

The lack of full transparency and cooperation from China regarding investigations into the virus’s origins further points to a lab leak. If evidence from the Wuhan Institute of Virology could categorically disprove the lab as the origin, why wouldn’t China be more cooperative with the WHO investigation?

Historical Frequency of Virology Lab Leaks

Historically, lab leaks, while rare, have occurred. The estimated rate of viruses escaping from labs, based on known incidents, is low.