There's been an ongoing effort to investigate the origins of COVID-19. The motivation is allegedly to prevent another pandemic from happening.

How does knowing how COVID-19 originated prevent another pandemic from happening? If COVID originated from a lab, then it's obvious, you can improve security protocols. But if it originated from a mutation, I don't see how it matters. After all, it's not like one can stop mutations from happening.

Here's an article in Pubmid with a section on why it matters, yet after reading it, I still don't understand why. It says things like "we can more aggressively surveil these [coronavirus hotspots] to learn more about the local viral ecology and identify initial human spillover events" and "We can also strengthen basic public health, including hygiene and sanitation, so that emerging viruses do not have a fertile field in which to amplify replication", but we can presumably already do these things without knowing how COVID-19 originated. Why, then, does it matter?

Related: Why is the lab leak theory such a big deal? which asks for political reasons that I'm not interested in.

  • 1
    Although I think your question is interesting, I don't see how it's anything but primarily opinion-based. I don't see any possibility of a factual answer.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jun 7, 2021 at 5:12
  • @CareyGregory If it turns out some of the features of the Covid-19 virus originated intentionally or unintentionally via laboratory studies (e.g. high ACE2 affinity, furin cleavage site), then more stringent restrictions on study and culture of coronaviruses should reduce the possibility of a future lab-related human infection.
    – Armand
    Jun 7, 2021 at 5:26
  • @Armand And may increase the danger of an epidemic that occurs without laboratory intervention, and reduce the available strategies for dealing with it. At this point I don't see anything but an opiniated answer to this balance, as Carey suggests.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 7, 2021 at 7:38
  • @BryanKrause Re: "may increase the danger of an epidemic that occurs without laboratory intervention". I don't understand how this could happen by increasing laboratory rules and regulations -- could you clarify?
    – Armand
    Jun 7, 2021 at 12:36
  • @Armand Increasing rules and regulations will dissuade people from doing some sorts of research. Maybe those rules will make things more safe, maybe not. The point is that it's not some simple no-brainer situation, there are trade-offs, and what should be done will be a matter of opinion.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 7, 2021 at 16:14


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