The strange saga of how France helped build Wuhan's top-security virus lab

By and Jacques Massey

The maximum-level biosafety laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the first of its kind to be built in China, and has been the centre of huge speculation since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic which originated in that city. The laboratory, which is equipped to handle Class 4 pathogens (P4) including dangerous viruses such as Ebola, was built with the help of French experts and under the guidance of French billionaire businessman Alain Mérieux, despite strong objections by health and defence officials in Paris. Since the laboratory's inauguration by prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve in 2017, however, France has had no supervisory role in the running of the facility and planned cooperation between French researchers and the laboratory has come to a grinding halt. Karl Laske and Jacques Massey report.

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French experts and researchers have no say in the running of the top-level biosafety laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China despite the fact that France helped build the facility and that Paris and Beijing signed an agreement on future cooperation and collaboration, a Mediapart investigation can reveal.