US State Department releases fact sheet alleging Covid-19 virus may have originated in Wuhan Institute of Virology, demands a thorough probe

While it is widely believed that China has not disclosed full facts regarding the origin of the Novel Coronavirus that cause the global Covid-19 pandemic, the US state department has levelled new allegations against the Communist govt in China. In a fact-sheet released on 15th January, the state department raised possibility about the virus being accidentally released from Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, from where the pandemic started.

The sheet says that for more than a year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin, choosing instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation. It said that the US government does not know where, when or how the COVID-19 virus was initially transmitted to humans, and they have not determined whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Although humans getting infected from animals is not uncommon, the previously undisclosed information in the fact sheet also brings the highlights that possibility of the laboratory being the origin, the state department says. To justify that claim, the fact sheet has made three points, which it says deserve greater scrutiny.

First, the fact sheet says that during the autumn in 2019, several researchers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) had become sick, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses. This raises questions about the credibility of the Chinese govt’s claim that there was “zero infection” among the WIV’s staff and students.

Accidental infections in labs have caused several previous virus outbreaks in China and elsewhere, including a 2004 SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people, killing one, the fact sheet says. It also notes that the CCP has prevented independent journalists, investigators, and global health authorities from interviewing researchers at the WIV, including those who were ill in the fall of 2019.

The second point is that WIV has been conducting research on the bat virus that is closest to the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing the Covid-19 disease. WIV is conducting research on RaTG13, the bat coronavirus, since 2016. The state department says that WIV has a published record of conducting “gain-of-function” research to engineer chimeric viruses, but it has not been transparent or consistent about its record of studying viruses most similar to the COVID-19 virus, including “RaTG13,” which it sampled from a cave in Yunnan Province in 2013 after several miners died of SARS-like illness.

“WHO investigators must have access to the records of the WIV’s work on bat and other coronaviruses before the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of a thorough inquiry, they must have a full accounting of why the WIV altered and then removed online records of its work with RaTG13 and other viruses,” the fact sheet demanded.

In the third point, the state department has pointed towards secret military activity at the WIV. It says that despite the WIV presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military. “The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017”, the fact sheet says.

Therefore, US and other donors who funded or collaborated on civilian research at the WIV have a right and obligation to determine whether any of our research funding was diverted to secret Chinese military projects at the WIV.

The state department notes that these new revelations just scratch the surface of what is still hidden about COVID-19’s origin in China. “Any credible investigation into the origin of COVID-19 demands complete, transparent access to the research labs in Wuhan, including their facilities, samples, personnel, and records,” it said.

Noting that the WHO has started to investigate the origin of the virus after a delay of more than a year, it says the virus’s origin remains uncertain. The fact sheet says that The United States will continue to do everything it can to support a credible and thorough investigation, including by continuing to demand transparency on the part of Chinese authorities.

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia