by Robert Romano
Almost 3.7 million people have died worldwide from the Covid pandemic that began in the Wuhan province of China in late 2019, and now, the American people are learning that the U.S. government has had intelligence for months that indicates the virus might have been released from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in a laboratory accident.
On Jan. 15, right at the end of former President Donald Trump’s term in office, the State Department released a fact sheet that stated, “The United States government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses. This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was ‘zero infection’ among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses.”
And it accused the Wuhan lab of possibly conducting “gain of function” research on bat-to-human transmission of coronaviruses: “Starting in at least 2016, WIV researchers studied RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar). Since the outbreak, the WIV has not been transparent nor consistent about its work with RaTG13 or other similar viruses, including possible ‘gain of function’ experiments to enhance transmissibility or lethality.”
This mirrored claims in a May 23 Wall Street Journal report that offered additional details of the potential lab accident: “Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report.”
The Journal disclosures appear to be referencing the same intelligence report that the State Department fact sheet was in January.
The May 23 report from the Journal sent the Biden administration scrambling, with President Joe Biden issuing a statement on May 26 that in March he had “asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information” on “whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”’
But the intelligence goes back further. The State Department inquiry reportedly began last fall. according to CNN. And a May 2020 Australian Daily Telegraph news story quoted a “Five Eyes” intelligence report on the potential Wuhan lab origins of Covid. According to the Daily Telegraph, “[The dossier] states that to the ‘endangerment of other countries’ the Chinese government covered-up news of the virus by silencing or ‘disappearing’ doctors who spoke out, destroying evidence of it in laboratories and refusing to provide live samples to international scientists who were working on a vaccine… As intelligence agencies investigate whether the virus inadvertently leaked from a Wuhan laboratory, the team and its research led by scientist Shi Zhengli feature in the dossier prepared by Western governments that points to several studies they conducted as areas of concern.”
Moreover, the intelligence report was aware that western governments “funded a team of Chinese scientists who belong to a laboratory which went on to genetically modify deadly coronaviruses that could be transmitted from bats to humans and had no cure, and is now the subject of a probe into the origins of COVID-19.”
The intel report itself stated, “Despite evidence of human-human transmission from early December, PRC authorities deny it until January 20… The World Health Organisation does the same. Yet officials in Taiwan raised concerns as early as December 31, as did experts in Hong Kong on January 4.”
This intel would have been critical to the public health response by officials in the U.S., China and elsewhere. Unfortunately, China’s lack of cooperation stands at the center of the failure to identify patient zero of Covid, with the intelligence hinting that China might have had access to these patients all along if they indeed came from the Wuhan lab.
But the West’s response was not much better. It was nothing short of a cover-up.
As U.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) revealed in a Washington Examiner oped on Feb. 26, rather than conducting an investigation of Wuhan lab, world health officials instead depended on Dr. Peter Daszak of EcoHealth — who got a $666,442 grant beginning in 2014 to conduct bat-to-human coronavirus transmission studies in China at the Wuhan lab — to lead the crucial inquiries into whether his own experiments might have been the cause of the pandemic.
The grant was subcontracted to the Wuhan lab, according to a 2017 study by the Director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Dr. Shi Zheng-li, stating it was “jointly funded by… the National Institutes of Health (NIAID R01AI110964), the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) PREDICT program to PD and ZLS,” among others.
As Posey noted, the Daszak-led investigations remarkably went on to give the Wuhan lab a clean bill of health: “Ironically, the Lancet chose Daszak to lead its investigation into the origins of COVID-19, including its possible origins at Wuhan — a theory Daszak has repeatedly called a ‘conspiracy theory.’ WHO also included Daszak as a key member of its investigation team. Unsurprisingly, the WHO investigation team concluded on Feb. 8, after a brief visit to the Wuhan Institute, that it was unlikely the virus leaked from a lab, and this possibility needed no further investigation.”
Now, Posey is proposing H.R. 834, which would create a bipartisan commission to look at the origins of the virus. Certainly, if nothing else, Congress should be hauling Daszak in for questioning.
In a recently released email from Dr. Daszak to Dr. Anthony Fauci,director of NIAID, on April 18, 2020, “I just wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators, for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
But in a Dec. 2019 interview, Dr. Daszak admitted that the research at the Wuhan lab was in fact looking at novel coronaviruses and that the viruses were being manipulated: “we have now found, you know, after 6 or 7 years of doing this, over 100 new SARS-related corona viruses, very close to SARS… Some of them get into human cells in the lab, some of them can cause SARS disease in humanised mice models and are untreatable with therapeutic monoclonals and you can’t vaccinate against them with a vaccine. So, these are a clear and present danger… I think … corona viruses – you can manipulate them in the lab pretty easily. Spike protein drives a lot of what happen with corona virus, in zoonotic risk. So you can get the sequence, you can build the protein, and we work a lot with Ralph Baric at UNC to do this. Insert into the backbone of another virus and do some work in the lab. So you can get more predictive when you find a sequence. You’ve got this diversity. Now the logical progression for vaccines is, if you are going to develop a vaccine for SARS, people are going to use pandemic SARS, but let’s insert some of these other things and get a better vaccine.”
Read that again. Dr. Daszak, Dr. Shi and the Wuhan lab had “over 100 new SARS-related corona viruses, very close to SARS… in the lab.” The pandemic could have been any one those more than 100 coronaviruses they had in the lab, and Daszak knew it.
Now, a May 14 letter to Science magazine co-authored by Dr. David Relman of Stanford University School of Medicine and 17 other doctors says a lab accident remains a “viable” hypothesis alongside a natural event, and urging further review of the subject: “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable. Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks… In November, the Terms of Reference for a China–WHO joint study were released. The information, data, and samples for the study’s first phase were collected and summarized by the Chinese half of the team; the rest of the team built on this analysis. Although there were no findings in clear support of either a natural spillover or a lab accident, the team assessed a zoonotic spillover from an intermediate host as ‘likely to very likely,’ and a laboratory incident as ‘extremely unlikely’. Furthermore, the two theories were not given balanced consideration. Only 4 of the 313 pages of the report and its annexes addressed the possibility of a laboratory accident. Notably, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus com-mented that the report’s consideration of evidence supporting a laboratory accident was insufficient and offered to provide additional resources to fully evaluate the possibility. As scientists with relevant expertise, we agree with the WHO director-general, the United States and 13 other countries, and the European Union that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve. We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data.”
One of the co-signers on the letter was Dr. Ralph Baric of the Department of Epidemiology and Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of Dr. Shi’s long-time research collaborators, and one of the world’s foremost experts on novel coronaviruses. In a 2015 study, Baric and Shi were able to combine two separate coronaviruses to create a new one.
The doubts today call into question greatly the certitude that Dr. Daszak gave the world in the early days of 2020 that there was simply no way the virus could have originated in a lab.
Dr. Daszak’s cover-up of his potential role in the outbreak was even used to engage in Covid censorship. According to JusttheNews.com’s John Solomon, “Science Feedback, one of Facebook’s chief fact-checking platforms, in a February 2020 ‘fact check’ cited Peter Daszak as an expert source in its ruling that there was ‘no evidence’ to support the theory that the COVID-19 virus leaked from the lab.”
Could public health officials have acted faster late in 2019 if Dr. Daszak had disclosed what he knew when the virus was diagnosed in Dec. 2019? Could disclosure by U.S. health officials like Dr. Fauci who helped fund Daszak and the Wuhan lab’s research into the deadly bat-to-human coronaviruses have aided the Trump administration’s foreign policy and persuaded China to be more forthcoming? Could that have helped saved lives?
We may never know. And neither will the 3.7 million dead and counting from Covid.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.