While the BI article, which I've partially edited into the question to reinforce the claim, indeed agrees that
Much of the theory about a lab leak is based on the proximity of those research labs — the Wuhan CDC and the Institute of Virology — to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the wet market previously thought to be the outbreak's origin point. That's because a non-peer-reviewed paper, which was retracted, cited the market's proximity to two labs. [...]
A branch office of the Wuhan CDC is located about 600 meters — less than half a mile — from the Huanan market via main roads (though it's not the Chinese CDC's only site in Wuhan).
and also confirms the easily double-checked existence of "JHT" as Jun-Hua Tian, it also says
Another issue with the theory described in Botao's retracted paper is that studies and reports are increasingly finding that people in Wuhan were getting sick in early December and potentially even November. Many early cases had no connection to the Huanan market.
A recent study in the journal Nature Microbiology suggests that the new coronavirus had already established itself and begun spreading in Wuhan by early January. Earlier research published in The Lancet showed that the first person to test positive for the coronavirus was most likely exposed to it on December 1 and then showed symptoms on December 8. The study found that 13 of the 41 original cases showed no link to the wet market.
A team of infectious-disease researchers in China also reported in February that they'd found surges in the use of terms related to the coronavirus on WeChat more than two weeks before officials confirmed the first case.
So the proximity of any lab to the Huanan market is most likely irrelevant in the true timeline of the outbreak's beginning.
So the claim about the WHCDC being there may be true, but not everyone seems to agree that it is relevant.
Botao's paper also advanced as an alternative hypothesis that the virus may have escaped from another facility in Wuhan as:
The second laboratory was ~12 kilometers from the seafood market and belonged to
Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. This laboratory
reported that the Chinese horseshoe bats were natural reservoirs for the severe acute
respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) which caused the 2002-3 pandemic.
The principle investigator participated in a project which generated a chimeric virus using the SARS-CoV reverse genetics system, and reported the potential for human
emergence. A direct speculation was that SARS-CoV or its derivative might leak from
In summary, somebody was entangled with the evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus.
Regarding the latter claim, the BI article says:
After her team sequenced the COVID-19 virus, Shi told Scientific American that she quickly checked her laboratory's record from the past few years to check for accidents, especially during disposal. Then she cross-referenced the new coronavirus' genome with the genetic information of other bat coronaviruses her team had collected. They didn't match.
"That really took a load off my mind," she told Scientific American in March, adding: "I had not slept a wink for days."
So there's no direct evidence of the Covid-19 virus being seen in a Chinese lab before. But of course, if you think it's a coverup or that it came from a bat in one of those labs, even though no lab bat is known to having carried the Covid-19 virus (prior to the outbreak--they might have tested in one in the meantime)... time will tell if this hypothesis (i.e. Covid-19 came from a Wuhan lab bat) is true or not.
And yeah, one the correlations side, the/a reason why this q was posted here today (despite the original claim being months old), might have something to do with Apr 15 news...
Donald Trump has fuelled a media theory that the coronavirus pandemic began when the pathogen accidentally escaped a Chinese laboratory, teasing that “more and more we’re hearing the story”.
The US president’s TV network of choice, Fox News, has reported that “multiple sources” in the American government believe initial transmission of the virus was bat-to-human in a virology lab in Wuhan. Due to weak safety protocols, an infected lab worker then went to a wet market where the virus spread [US gov't sources believe].
And if Trump wasn't too explicit Pompeo was
"What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China," Pompeo told "The Story". "We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There is still lots to learn. The United States government is working diligently to figure it out."
So if you don't want to take China's word for it, wait for the US gov't investigation to complete.
Meanwhile, the French, who were involved in building the BSL-4 in Wuhan have said
France said on Friday there was no evidence so far of a link between the new coronavirus and the work of the P4 research laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the current pandemic started.
“We would like to make it clear that there is to this day no factual evidence corroborating the information recently circulating in the United States press that establishes a link between the origins of COVID-19 and the work of the P4 laboratory of Wuhan, China,” an official at President Emmanuel Macron’s office said. [...]
In 2004, France signed an agreement with China to establish a research lab on infectious diseases of biosafety level 4, the highest level, in Wuhan, according to a French decree signed by then-foreign minister Michel Barnier.
Also, the (implicit) claim that this virus came to us "straight" from bats may not be true either:
In early January 2020, Chinese scientists sequenced the entire genome for SARS-CoV-2 and published it online. Researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China compared its genome to a library of known viruses — and found a 96% match with coronavirus samples taken from horseshoe bats from Yunnan.
"But that 4% difference is actually a pretty wide distance in evolutionary time. It could even be decades," says Dr. Robert F. Garry, professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University School of Medicine.
That extra 4% suggests the SARS-CoV-2 may not have evolved from bats alone, but may include viral material from another animal. In that case, the virus would have continued to evolve through natural selection in that animal. Moreover, that other animal may have acted as an "intermediate host," ultimately transmitting the virus to humans.
And in more detail on how close SARS-CoV-2 is to any known (bat) viruses:
Although RaTG13, sampled from a Rhinolophus affinis bat, is ~96% identical overall to SARS-CoV-2, its spike diverges in the RBD, which suggests that it may not bind efficiently to human ACE2. [...]
Although the RaTG13 bat virus remains the closest to SARS-CoV-2 across the genome, some pangolin coronaviruses exhibit strong similarity to SARS-CoV-2 in the RBD, including all six key RBD residues.
Neither the bat betacoronaviruses nor the pangolin betacoronaviruses sampled thus far have polybasic cleavage sites [unlike SARS-CoV2]. Although no animal coronavirus has been identified that is sufficiently similar to have served as the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV-2, the diversity of coronaviruses in bats and other species is massively undersampled. [...]
Retrospective serological studies could also be informative, and a few such studies have been conducted showing low-level exposures to SARS-CoV-like coronaviruses in certain areas of China. Critically, however, these studies could not have distinguished whether exposures were due to prior infections with SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 or other SARS-CoV-like coronaviruses. Further serological studies should be conducted to determine the extent of prior human exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
While everyone is going to have their own opinion on the level of Chinese cover up in this (Covid-19 case), they did release a few details on the investigation in a 2004 incident when SARS "broke out" of a Beijing lab.