Scientific ideas are subject to change if warranted by the evidence. A World Health Organization investigative team concluded the most plausible cause of the Covid-19 pandemic was a virus jumping from one animal species to another and then to humans. It considered a notion that the virus leaked from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first outbreak occurred, “extremely unlikely”. Further research is needed before there can be a definitive conclusion and while it is being carried out, there is room only for science and truths, not conspiracy theories. Politicians and others seeking personal gain have other ideas; a number blame Beijing for the coronavirus and the interest of many centres on China’s most important laboratory for the study of infectious diseases, the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They speculate the virus may have escaped by mistake or been intentionally released, theories that American and some other Western intelligence agencies consider a possibility. The idea began circulating soon after the outbreak began 18 months ago and have been gaining fresh traction amid rising geopolitical tensions. US President Joe Biden ’s recent order that agents investigate whether the disease “emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident” and report back in 90 days has fanned the debate. Intelligence officers are not scientists, so such an investigation is about theatrics. So short a time frame is similarly meaningless, with years and sometimes decades being necessary to come to a conclusion about the source of a disease. While severe acute respiratory syndrome first appeared in 2003, it was not until 2017 that Chinese scientists determined it originated in bats in Yunnan and spread to civet cats and then humans. There can be no deadlines or rushed reports where Covid-19 or any other disease is concerned. Explainer | Lab leak or nature? Debate heats up on the origins of Covid-19 virus China has been cooperative with WHO investigators and it has to continue being open and transparent to ensure the United Nations agency can properly carry out its work. Still, Chinese officials have been repeatedly accused of trying to cover up the truth. Those making such claims are invariably Western politicians or media commentators. Some, particularly in the US, are eager to divert attention from poor records of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, attempts to curtail voting rights or racist comments. With the world struggling to contain fresh coronavirus outbreaks and variants and trying to vaccinate populations, finding the origins of the pandemic is made more challenging. But doing so is essential to better understand infectious diseases and prevent outbreaks. Scientists, working with knowledge and facts, are the only ones qualified to do that work.