Both articles have left the scientific domain for the opinions one - if not the political opinions one - by asserting that the Laos BANAL BatCoV finds reinforce the zoonotic origin hypothesis.
Now let's cut through the noise and go back to the horse mouth, Marc Eloit the main author of that paper - from the Institut Pasteur.
On the key issue of the absence of the not-banal-at-all FCS in all the BANAL BatCoVs:
"It is possible that it was acquired in a lab"
Remember @carlzimmer @SmritiMallapaty, Marc Eloit is the main author of that paper!
So stop misrepresenting his findings.
The one clear conclusion is that the pangolin story was a lame duck:
The very Pangolin story that Linfa Wang (who did not say a word about DEFUSE) and Supaporn (who is now on SAGO) were dutifully pushing through... Nature indeed! in Feb 2021 during the WHO visit in Wuhan:
Another clear finding is that the SARS-CoV-2 RBD does not need to be done in a lab - something close to it exists in nature (not like the Furin Cleavage Site):
But the finding cuts both way. It also shortens the path to a research-related origin.
In the end, as the Huffingtonpost article says:
"This work, if confirmed, does not directly answer the question of the origin of Sars-Cov2. Particularly because these viruses do not have this famous furin site"
The problem is that @carlzimmer and @SmritiMallapaty are confusing 3 issues:
1. SASR-CoV-2 relatives in nature
2. The jump of SARS-CoV-2 to human: zoonosis or research-related?
3. Possible lab enhancement of a SARS-CoV-2 relative (used as backbone)
Actually in all research related scenarios you need a SARS-CoV-2 relative in nature:
- a very similar one if it is a field sampling infection or a lab leak of a collected virus, with FCS probably.
- a very similar one, without FCS, if SARS_CoV-2 is the result of DEFUSE type work
One easy way to cut through this would be to know what BatCoVs the WIV has collected over the last few years.
But - guess what - the WIV has hardly published any data since 2016 and has removed access to all its 16 viral databases starting in Sep 2019.
So that's it for transparency and cooperation - starting from Sep 19.
At the same time a different team from Shanghai has found no SARS-CoV-2 relatives in China over a few recent years of sampling (including very close to Wuhan).
And that's before one considers the location argument:
If a relative with FCS exists somewhere in China or Laos, why would Covid-19 break out in Wuhan AND NOWHERE ELSE?
The probability of this happening is very small for a zoonosis, but very high for a research-related accident.
In any case, going back to BANAL, let's remember that Eloit was sampling in exactly the same locations in Laos in 2017 with a US Naval Team (which also funded Supaporn).
No sequence ever published. Then Eloit went back in 20/21 without the US Naval side