Should There Be an Investigation Into Whether COVID-19 Originated in the Wuhan Lab?
Should an investigation of the origins of COVID-19 consider the possibility of a lab leak?
- President Joe Biden released a statement on Wednesday saying that he asked the Intelligence Community (IC) for a report on the origins of COVID-19 after taking office which has since been completed and that he is asking for a follow-up report.
- The statement said the IC “coalesced around two likely scenarios” ― that COVID-19 “emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident” ― but hasn’t reached a conclusion on either, and outlined the IC’s current position:
“(W)hile two elements in the IC leans toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter ― each with low or moderate confidence ― the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.”
- Biden has now asked the IC “to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days.” The latest report will include areas of further inquiry, including questions for China, and Biden’s statement said his administration will work with partners to “press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence.”
The original article appears below.
What’s the story?
- A new report that an illness with symptoms similar to coronavirus (COVID-19) afflicted several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the outset of the pandemic is fuelling renewed calls for an independent probe into the origins of the pandemic and the possibility the virus escaped from the lab.
- The Wall Street Journal reported that a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report found that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) became sick and sought hospitalization in November 2019 for symptoms similar to those caused by COVID-19 and similar respiratory illnesses.
- Officials familiar with the intelligence expressed differing views on it to the WSJ, with one saying it was potentially significant and provided by an international partner but needs further investigation, and another saying the information “coming from the various sources was of exquisite quality.”
- That information is similar to a State Dept. fact sheet released in January 2021 which did not draw conclusions about the origins of COVID-19 but noted the illnesses among researchers at WIV in the fall of 2019 prior to the first reported cases of COVID-19.
- The fact sheet also reported that the WIV conducted research on coronaviruses as early as 2016 involving a virus (RaTG13) that the WIV identified in January 2020 as the closest to COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) at 96.2% similarity; published research from WIV about “gain-of-function” research on chimeric viruses; altered and removed online records of its work on RaTG13 and other viruses; and that the Chinese Communist Party has prevented investigators from interviewing WIV researchers, including those were ill in the fall of 2019. It also noted that accidental infections in labs have led to viral outbreaks in the past, including a 2004 SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people and killed one.
- World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said in March the WHO’s joint team hadn’t conducted a full investigation into the potential origin of the pandemic being an accidental lab leak and that it should “remain on the table” as a potential source.
- Tedros said of the WHO’s probe in Wuhan that he does “not believe that this assessment was extensive enough” while a WHO animal disease specialist said the team didn’t do “a full investigation or audit” of the lab at that a potential lab leak “did not receive the same depth of attention and work” as other possible sources of COVID-19.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the Biden administration’s chief medical officer and was a lead official on the Trump administration’s pandemic task force, recently expressed an openness to the possibility of COVID-19 originating in a lab after largely dismissing it last year. In May 2020, Fauci told National Geographic that the science “is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated.”
- This month, Fauci was asked if he is still confident that COVID-19 developed naturally and replied, “No, actually I am not convinced about that,” and added:
“I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened. Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.”
- Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) ― whom the Washington Post in February 2020 accused of fanning “embers of a coronavirus conspiracy that has been repeatedly debunked by experts” (the Post on Tuesday reported the “Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible”) ― said in a tweet thread:
“The common-sense case for a lab leak is the same as it was in January 2020, when I first mentioned the possibility. Isn’t it strange that this once-in-a-century bat coronavirus pandemic just happened to emerge within a few miles of China’s biggest laboratory researching bat coronaviruses? Shouldn’t we at least look at that lab? … The United States & the world must demand a full, impartial investigation into COVID-19 origins, with a special focus on the Wuhan labs. The Wuhan Institute of Virology & Wuhan CDC need to open their doors & databases for a full audit of their research ― especially dangerous gain-of-function research. The CCP needs to stop obstructing investigators, destroying evidence, and telling ridiculous lies.”
- The House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 with the assistance of U.S. intelligence agencies. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration supports the WHO conducting a second stage of its investigation and urged China to cooperate:
“There still needs to be an international investigation... We need access to the information that the Chinese government has in order to make a determination through the international bodies that would do this investigation. And that’s something we’ve called for many, many times. And we’ve pressed with our international partners for the WHO to support an expert-driven evaluation of the pandemic’s origins. We would certainly participate in that with all of our research ― resources from the United States.”
- Should Chinese Communist Party Officials Who Concealed Information About the Coronavirus Pandemic Be Sanctioned?
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Tempura)