Newly-released access-to-information documents have revealed shocking details of how a shipment of deadly pathogens from Canada’s National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg was received by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, months before the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. It is being reported that the delivery of 15 different lethal pathogens was made in May 2019.
According to a report by CBC News, the scientist who was responsible for exporting the pathogens to China was sacked after an investigation in July last year. Dr Xiangguo Qiu, the person who was allegedly behind this delivery, was terminated from Canada’s only level-4 lab over what the lab called a possible “policy breach”. Earlier it was reported that Canada had dispatched Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan lab.
The documents show that a total of 15 different virus samples were sent from Canada to the Chinese laboratory, each in two vials. The pathogens were:- Ebola Makona (three different varieties), Mayinga, Kikwit, Ivory Coast, Bundibugyo, Sudan Boniface, Sudan Gulu, MA-Ebov, GP-Ebov, GP-Sudan, Hendra, Nipah Malaysia and Nipah Bangladesh.
The documents accessed by CBC show that Canadian scientists were about the send the virus samples in an incorrect packaging on a commercial Air Canada flight on March 31, 2019. But correct packaging was used only after the Chinese side pointed out that Canadians are using the wrong packaging to ship the deadly pathogens.
Canada denies connection between the virus shipment and coronavirus outbreak
The Canadian Lab has, however, said that the shipments had nothing to do with the coronavirus outbreak and moreover it said that the termination of the Chinese scientist, Dr Xiangguo Qiu from the Winnipeg lab was also not related to the shipment.
The chief of media relations for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, Eric Morrissette, wrote in an email: “The administrative investigation is not related to the shipment of virus samples to China.
“In response to a request from the Wuhan Institute of Virology for viral samples of Ebola and Henipah viruses, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) sent samples for the purpose of scientific research in 2019.”
Along with PHAC, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has also denied any connections between the pandemic and the virus shipments. There is no evidence linking this shipment to the spread of the coronavirus. Ebola is a filovirus and Henipa is a paramyxovirus; no coronavirus samples were sent.
Despite the Canadian media reports, the Chinese side has also never officially disclosed any information about the alleged virus transfer from Canada.
Despite clarifications, experts are not convinced. Amir Attaran, a law professor and epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, was quoted by CBC News as saying: “It is suspicious. It is alarming. It is potentially life-threatening.”
Experts displeased by the Canadian Government’s decision to export the pathogens to China
Alarmed by the act, Amir Attaran said that the shipment was sent to the Chinese lab knowing that it has links to the Chinese military: “What we know is that before she was removed, she sent one of the deadliest viruses on Earth, and multiple varieties of it to maximise the genetic diversity and maximise what experimenters in China could do with it, to a laboratory in China that does dangerous gain of function experiments. And that has links to the Chinese military,” Attaran said.
Talking about the “gain of function experiment”, in which a natural pathogen is taken into the lab, made to mutate, and then assessed to see if it has become more deadly or infectious, the law professor furthered: “The Wuhan lab does them and we have now supplied them with Ebola and Nipah viruses. It does not take a genius to understand that this is an unwise decision. I am extremely unhappy to see that the Canadian government shared that genetic material,” said Attaran.
Though the Canadian officials have consistently denied any connections between the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus shipments and stated that there is no evidence linking the shipments to the spread of the coronavirus, given the fact that the pandemic is said to have originated in Wuhan, news of the “policy breach” is a cause of concern. Especially considering that the revelation has come during the time when the diplomatic relationship between China and the West remains volatile.
While America has repeatedly blamed China for its campaign of “disinformation” related to the coronavirus, Tobias Ellwood, an MP of the United Kingdom, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, said: “COVID-19, if it’s done anything, it has woken up the world to this rather aggressive and concerning the objective of China wanting to quietly advance its own influence across the world.”