The virus that causes COVID-19 entered the human population due to a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sometime before mid-September 2019, according to a new report from Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“[W]e now believe it’s time to completely dismiss the wet market as the source of the outbreak,” the report, released Sunday, states. “We also believe the preponderance of the evidence proves the virus did leak from the WIV and that it did so sometime before September 12, 2019.”
The report also said there was “ample proof” showing that the virus could have been genetically manipulated prior to the outbreak.
Evidence cited as proof that the Wuhan lab is connected to the virus outbreak includes the sudden and unexplained removal of a virus database the evening of Sept. 12, 2019, athletes at the Military World Games in Wuhan in October 2019 contracting COVID-like symptoms upon returning to their home countries and the installation of a People’s Liberation Army bioweapons expert to lead the WIV’s Biosafety Level 4 lab as early as late 2019.
In addition, the report revealed that multiple Chinese medical officials had expressed concerns about safety protocols at the WIV before the outbreak in 2019. The WIV had also requested bids for renovation to its waste management system for the Wuhan National Biosafety Lab in March 2019, just two years after the lab had begun operations.
“Such a significant renovation so soon after the facility began operation appears unusual,” the report states. “The references to maintenance at the BSL-3 and animal center at the WNBL, the procurement of an environmental air disinfection system, and renovations to the hazardous waste treatment system and central air conditioning system all raise questions about how well these systems were functioning prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.”
Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged House Democrats in a statement accompanying the report to subpoena EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak, who collaborated closely with the WIV prior to the pandemic, to answer questions regarding his “inconsistent — and in some instances outright and knowingly accurate — statements” on the nature of his work in China.
“We know gain-of-function research was happening at the WIV and we know it was being done in unsafe conditions,” McCaul said in the statement. “We also now know the head of the Chinese CDC and the director of the WIV’s BSL-4 lab publicly expressed concerns about safety at PRC labs in the summer of 2019.”
“It is our belief the virus leaked sometime in late August or early September 2019,” McCaul added. “When they realized what 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 more than $1 million for additional security.”
The report Sunday was an addendum to a report released in September by the GOP’s China Task Force that had detailed how the Chinese Communist Party and World Health Organization covered up the initial epidemic in Wuhan and led to “what could have been a local outbreak into a global pandemic.”
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