Wuhan lab report raises more questions about possible COVID-19 lab leak

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Months before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Wuhan National Biosafety Lab requested bids for major renovations to aviation safety and waste handling systems at research facilities that had been operational for less than 2 years, according to a new Congressional report on the origins of the pandemic, obtained by Fox News.

“Such a major renovation so soon after the facility begins to operate seems unusual,” the Republican staff report from the House Foreign Affairs Committee said. The air disinfection, hazardous waste and central air conditioning systems projects “all raise questions about how well these systems were working in the months leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The real reason for posting the procurement is unclear, as is when or if the job even started. This adds another circumstantial element to the controversial argument that the pandemic started in a Wuhan laboratory, including suspicious behavior and obfuscation from the Chinese government and signs that the pandemic began months before it began. previous hypothesis.

Just weeks before President Biden’s deadline for the intelligence community’s review of the origins of the pandemic, Republicans will release their most detailed case yet, claiming Wuhan researchers could have genetically manipulated virus and that “the preponderance of evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 was accidentally released from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

The staff of Representative Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will include the information as an addendum to their September report.

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In recent months, more public health experts, scientists and government officials have called for an investigation into a possible lab leak, as well as examinations to see if the virus started naturally. They called for a full and independent investigation in China into the origins of the pandemic, although the Chinese Communist Party has refused access.

Without the cooperation of the Chinese government, there is significant skepticism that none of the few U.S. government investigations will provide a concrete account of the origin of the pandemic. Beyond the ongoing review of the Biden administration, the State Department, under the previous administration, released a declassified report days before stepping down. At the time, it offered the most detailed case to date that the coronavirus had leaked from a lab.

Citing the intelligence community’s ongoing review, Democratic leaders have shown little interest in congressional investigations, leaving Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs and Energy and Trade Committees to conduct their own reviews . Democrats control Congress and its committees, so Republicans alone have no subpoena power.

Using project announcements posted on the Chinese government procurement website, along with other open source data, interviews with former administration officials and scientists, research papers and international news reports, Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee built their argument on a timeline that claims the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology “sometime before September 12, 2019”.

That day, Wuhan University, less than a mile from WIV headquarters, issued a laboratory inspection notice. Hours later, the WIV virus sequence database disappeared from the Internet. Later that evening, the institute issued a call for tenders for “security services” at the laboratory “to include guards, guards, CCTV, security patrols and those responsible for security. “Registration and hospitality of foreign personnel,” “according to the report.

Citing the testimony of “a former senior US official,” the report claims that Major General Chen Wei, an expert in biology and chemical weapons defense, has taken control of the Level 4 biosafety laboratory at the Wuhan Institute at the end of 2019. This timing demonstrates the Chinese Communist Party “was concerned about the activity taking place there as news of the virus spread,” according to the report. “If she took control in 2019, it would mean that the CCP knew about the virus earlier and the epidemic started earlier. ”

Dr Shi Zhengli, known as the
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Dr Shi Zhengli, known as the “Bat Lady” of the Wuhan Institute, is said to have worked with military officials at the lab, although he denied it. (APTN)

Satellite images of Wuhan in September and October 2019 showed a significant increase in hospital visits and internet searches for symptoms of COVID-19. The report also claims that the map data suggests that the lab researchers likely used the Wuhan shuttle and the city’s subway for their daily commute, spreading the virus throughout the city.

The committee also used an interview in Bloomberg with Australian virologist Dr Danielle Anderson to establish some of the lab’s travel patterns. Anderson is the only foreign scientist to undertake research at the BSL-4 laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, according to Bloomberg. She also told the publication that entering and exiting the facility was carefully choreographed and included requirements for taking chemical and personal showers at a specific time.

In that June interview, Dr Anderson claimed she did not know anyone at the Wuhan institute who was ill towards the end of 2019 and said she believed the virus was most likely from a natural source.

At that time, Republican researchers said there was evidence the virus was spreading in central Wuhan, just before the World Military Games which, “became an international vector, spreading the virus to several continents across the country. world”.

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In October, Wuhan hosted the 2019 Military World Games, which drew thousands of servicemen to participate in Olympic-style events. International press reports quote athletes claiming that the events unfolded without fans and that Wuhan was a “ghost town”. Athletes in several countries have complained of COVID-like symptoms and four countries that sent athletes confirmed the presence of COVID-19 in November and December 2019, before the outbreak became public, according to the report.

Committee staff are also developing their case for the possibility that viruses can be genetically modified without leaving evidence of manipulation. They cite an interview from an Italian publication with Dr Ralph Baric, who studies coronaviruses at the University of North Carolina and has collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, in which he claimed scientists can design a virus “without leaving a trace”. Dr Baric said the MIT Technology Review that “We never created a supervirus.”

Republican staff also cite a 2017 thesis by a doctoral student working at WIV which claimed that coronaviruses can be handled without leaving a trace. They said they also interviewed “current and former US government scientists and officials” who questioned whether the virus grows naturally due to its highly infectious nature, lack of a discovered intermediate host, and highly efficient binding. to the human ACE2 receptor.

Some scientists have pointed out that it often takes years to determine the origins of a natural virus. They cite Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which was first discovered in 2003. In the same year, researchers discovered the intermediate host although it was not until 2017 to trace its origin to bats.

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As calls to at least investigate the laboratory leak theory have gained traction internationally, Chinese government propaganda has become much more aggressive to dispel it – the latest in a tendency to hide information about the pandemic since its onset.

February 27, 2020, Health time, published an interview with Yu Chuanhua, vice president of the Hubei Health Statistics and Information Society, who compiled a database of confirmed cases of COVID-19. He cited a patient who fell ill on September 29 and that “there were two cases in November, and the start time was November 14 and 21, 2019”.

“Before the interview was published on February 27, Yu called the reporter and attempted to withdraw the information about the two sick patients in November. It is likely that this was done to comply with the gag order of the Chinese CDC issued two days ago, “according to the congressional report.

In an email from January 2021, Dr Shi Zheng-li, a senior scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was asked about the lab’s public database disappearance on the Internet. Shi, according to the report, had previously “given several conflicting answers” as to why the database was deleted, and replied, “I will not answer any of your questions if your curiosity is based on the conspiracy of” human or SARS-CoV-2 lab leak or absurd questions based on your suspicion. ”

“No trust, no conversation,” she said.

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