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New Intelligence Report on Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin

Three Wuhan Lab workers went to the hospital in November 2019 with Covid-like symptoms. This adds to speculation the virus escaped from a lab.
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Shi Zhengli

The WSJ reports Intelligence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin

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 that could add weight to growing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the laboratory.

The details of the reporting go beyond a State Department fact sheet, issued during the final days of the Trump administration, which said that several researchers at the lab, a center for the study of coronaviruses and other pathogens, became sick in autumn 2019 “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.”

“The information that we had coming from the various sources was of exquisite quality. It was very precise. What it didn’t tell you was exactly why they got sick,” he [someone familiar with the report] said, referring to the researchers.

Shi Zhengli, the top bat coronavirus expert at WIV, has said the virus didn’t leak from her laboratories. She told the WHO-led team that traveled to Wuhan earlier this year to investigate the origins of the virus that all staff had tested negative for Covid-19 antibodies and there had been no turnover of staff on the coronavirus team.

No Comments From Biden 

Not commenting on the alleged intelligence is problematic.

We’re not going to make pronouncements that prejudge an ongoing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV-2,” the spokeswoman said. “As a matter of policy we never comment on intelligence issues.

If  US intelligence has facts disputing what Shi Zhengli has to say, then it would be better to see the report than for people to speculate on what it is hiding.

One Biden administration official said that by highlighting data that pointed to the lab leak hypothesis, Trump administration officials had sought “to put spin on the ball.” Several U.S. officials described the intelligence as “circumstantial,” worthy of further exploration but not conclusive on its own.

Asked about the Jan. 15 statement, State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “A fact sheet issued by the previous administration on January 15 did not draw any conclusions regarding the origins of the coronavirus. Rather, it focused on the lack of transparency surrounding the origins.”

In Hunt for Covid-19 Origin, Patient Zero Points to Second Wuhan Market

On February 26, the WSJ reported In Hunt for Covid-19 Origin, Patient Zero Points to Second Wuhan Market

World Health Organization investigators are seeking information about a second food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan after the first officially confirmed Covid-19 case, dubbed patient zero, told them his parents had shopped there.

The putative patient zero met the WHO investigators during their recent four-week visit to Wuhan, and told them that his parents had visited another local community food market, according to three team members.

The investigators’ interest in patient zero’s parents was first reported by CNN in an interview with Peter Daszak, a WHO team member who said the parents had tested negative but Chinese authorities should still trace their contacts at the market. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“There is clear evidence of simultaneous transmission of the virus in other places outside the market,” Thea Fischer, a Danish epidemiologist on the WHO team, told reporters in Wuhan. “It seems less likely that the market is the source of the virus epidemic.”

Political Bias

Twitter banned discussion of lab-based origins. 

But now that Biden calls for further look by the WHO into what happened,  Twitter is OK with such discussion.

Trump's Accusations

In April of 2020, Trump accused China of unleashing the virus. He labeled Covid-19 the "China Virus."

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Is it any wonder China did not want to cooperate with officials?

I doubt they would have cooperated anyway, but pointed allegations do not help scientific investigation.

What We Know

  1. It's possible the virus came from the lab
  2. It's possible the virus didn't come from a lab. 
  3. It's even possible the virus was accidentally introduced into the lab from the outside. 
  4. The WHO is not credible. 

In short, we do not know much, including what the intelligence reports actually say. 

If the WHO releases another report, why should anyone believe what it says?

And many will doubt denials from China and the WHO even if the denials are true. 

What We May Never Know

  • What Happened

Politics has spoiled any serious investigation attempt.

If the virus did originate in the Wuhan lab, China will do it's best to suppress that data.

If the WHO again concludes the virus did not not originate in a Chinese Lab, there would be no particular reason to believe the report, even if the report was accurate. 

Meanwhile, the longer it takes to get a credible investigation underway, the less likely the investigation will turn up anything.

It may be too late already, even if the next investigation is an honest one.

Only if China steps up and admits the virus came from the Wuhan lab and supplies the details, will we know what happened.