Covid-19 leaked from the Wuhan lab sometime before September 2019, with China’s Communist Party keeping the deadly virus under wraps in the “greatest coverup of all time”.
So says a damning Republican investigation into the origins released on Monday.
The report showed “a preponderance of the evidence proves that all roads lead” to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the research lab already eyed as a source for the pandemic, according to Michael McCaul, the lead Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“When they realised what had happened, Chinese Communist Party officials and scientists at the WIV began frantically covering up the leak, including taking their virus database offline in the middle of the night and requesting authorities for more than US$1 million for additional security,” McCaul said.
“But their cover-up was too late – the virus was already spreading throughout the megacity of Wuhan,” he said.
The report cited “ample evidence” that the lab’s scientists – aided by US experts and Chinese and US government funds – were working to modify coronaviruses to infect humans.
Unusual activity was detected in July 2019, the report said, saying that a request was made for a US$1.5 million overhaul of a hazardous waste treatment system for the facility and repairs to the disinfecting air conditioning.
There were also “significant concerns about the lax safety protocols”.
The report concluded that the virus escaped “sometime prior to Sept 12, 2019” – the day that urgent inspections were called for the lab and its viral sequence database disappeared from the internet, said the New York Post.
Major General Chen Wei, an expert in biology and chemical weapon defences, then took control of the institute’s biosafety, suggesting the Chinese Communist Party “was concerned about the activity happening there as news of the virus was spreading”, the report argues.
Satellite imagery of Wuhan in September and October that year showed a significant increase in hospital visits and internet searches for pneumonia-like symptoms now known to be Covid, the report says.
The report accuses Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance as well as the Wuhan lab’s “bat woman” lead scientist Shi Zhengli of lying about the origins and dismissing the lab-leak theory as a crackpot conspiracy.
Daszak should be subpoenaed to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to “answer the many questions his inconsistent – and in some instances outright and knowingly inaccurate – statements have raised,” McCaul said, according to the Hill.
President Joe Biden in May ordered US intelligence agencies to accelerate their hunt for the origins of the virus and report back in 90 days.
A source familiar with current intelligence assessments told Reuters that the intelligence community has not reached a firm conclusion on whether the virus leaked from the lab.
Experts say the US must discipline China for failing to quickly and cooperatively alert the international community to the virus outbreak and its ongoing obstruction into the investigation.
Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said: “The Biden administration has already – working through the World Health Organization and with the G-7 and with other countries – used diplomacy and tried to urge the Chinese to cooperate. They’ve given us their answer, their answer is no.”