- The report has reignited the controversy about the origin of the Corona outbreak.
- Three researchers from Wuhan’s lab fell ill with Covid-19 symptoms in November 2019, weeks before the first Covid-19 case.
- The WHO team investigating the source of the pandemic was denied access to raw data on early Covid cases by China.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing a previously undisclosed US intelligence report that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sought hospital treatment in November 2019 with Covid symptoms, months before China announced the COVID-19 pandemic,
The document, according to the newspaper, could add weight to calls for a wider investigation into whether the COVID-19 virus escaped from the laboratory because it provides information about the number of researchers who were infected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospital visits.
The report was released on the eve of a meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body, which is supposed to discuss the COVID-19 investigation’s next steps.
According to a National Security Council spokeswoman, the Biden administration appears to have “serious concerns about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its origins within the Peoples Republic of China.”
She stated that the US government was working with the WHO and other member states to support a “free of intervention or politicisation” expert-led probe into the pandemic’s origins.
“We’re not going to make statements that prejudge an ongoing WHO investigation into the source of SARS-CoV-2,” she said, “but we’ve been clear that sound and technically plausible theories should be thoroughly tested by international experts.”
Current and former officials familiar with the lab researchers’ intelligence shared a number of opinions about the report’s supporting facts, according to the Journal, with one anonymous source claiming it required “further investigation and additional corroboration.”
In March, the United States, Norway, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries expressed their dissatisfaction with the WHO-led COVID-19 origins report, calling for further examination and complete access to all relevant human, animal, and other data from the outbreak’s early stages.
According to a source familiar with the effort, Washington wants China to cooperate and be more transparent.
On Sunday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
According to China’s foreign ministry on Sunday, a WHO-led team visited the virology institute in February and concluded that a lab leak was highly unlikely.
In response to a Journal request for comment, the ministry said, “The US continues to hype the lab leak theory.”
“Does it care about tracing the source or is it attempting to deflect attention?”
The virus may have escaped from a Chinese lab, according to the Trump administration, which Beijing denies.
“The US government has reason to believe that many researchers within the WIV got sick in autumn 2019, before the first confirmed case of the outbreak, with symptoms associated with both COVID-19 and normal seasonal illnesses,” according to a State Department fact sheet published near the end of the Trump administration. There was no mention of how many researchers were involved.
Reuters reported in February where one of the team’s investigators said that China refused to send raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team investigating the pandemic’s origins, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the pandemic started.