House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans released their report on COVID-19’s origins, pointing to evidence of a lab leak, genetic modification, and a cover-up, making the case the virus accidentally emerged from the Wuhan lab in the fall of 2019.
The report concluded that “the preponderance of evidence suggests SARS-CoV-2 was accidentally released from a Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory sometime prior to September 12, 2019,” and “the virus, or the viral sequence that was genetically manipulated, was likely collected in a cave in Yunnan province, PRC, between 2012 and 2015.”
The report said Wuhan lab researchers, CCP officials, and “potentially American citizens” all “directly engaged in efforts to obfuscate information related to the origins of the virus and to suppress public debate of a possible lab leak.”
Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas led the GOP’s China Task Force and released a report in September alleging a Chinese cover-up and detailing serious concerns about the Wuhan lab. The House Foreign Affairs ranking member’s new addendum to that report puts a spotlight on the Wuhan lab.
The new report “outlines evidence that points to the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the source of the outbreak, and outlines some of the many steps researchers at the WIV along with Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance took to cover up the research being done there.”
It also “breaks down how scientific papers written by researchers at the WIV not only prove the WIV was doing dangerous genetic modification research on coronaviruses at unsafe biosafety levels, but also that WIV researchers had the ability to genetically modify coronaviruses as early as 2016 without leaving any trace of that modification.”
McCaul said he believes now is the right time to “completely dismiss” the hypothesis that the Wuhan wet market was the source of the outbreak.
“We know gain-of-function research was happening at the WIV and we know it was being done in unsafe conditions. We also now know the head of the Chinese CDC and the director of the WIV’s Biosafety Level-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. 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,” he said.
McCaul added: “But their cover-up was too late — the virus was already spreading throughout the megacity of Wuhan. Within a month, satellite images show a significant uptick in the number of people at hospitals around the WIV with symptoms similar to COVID-19. At the same time, athletes at the Military World Games became sick with symptoms similar to COVID-19. Some of them carried the virus back to their home countries — creating one of the earliest super spreader events in the world.”
The report contends that the removal of the WIV’s virus and sample database in September 2019, as well as safety concerns expressed by Chinese scientists, point to the conclusion that the virus leaked from the lab.
A State Department fact sheet released in January contended that Wuhan lab researchers “conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar)” and the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” The fact sheet asserted the lab “engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military” and that lab workers became sick with coronaviruslike symptoms in autumn 2019.
The GOP report noted that the Wuhan lab’s online database contained “more than 22,000 entries consisting of sample and pathogen data collected from bats and mice.” The database was pulled offline on Sept. 12, 2019, and the report noted there has been “no consistent answer” as to why it has not been put back online.
The report contends that one or more researchers could have become infected with the virus after collecting it in the wild or manipulation in the lab and could have subsequently provided a “vector for the virus to spread” while traveling to and from the WIV on the Wuhan Metro or a daily shuttle service that was available.
The Republicans said the report “lays out ample evidence that researchers at the WIV, in conjunction with U.S. scientists and funded by both the PRC government and the U.S. government, were conducting gain-of-function research on coronaviruses at the WIV.”
Its conclusion is that there is “ample proof that the virus could have been genetically manipulated.”
The GOP report noted that there is ample evidence the Chinese government, WIV researchers, and others were working to discredit the suggestion the virus could have been human-made or leaked from the lab.
It also points to the “installation of a People’s Liberation Army’s bioweapons expert as the head of the WIV’s Biosafety Level 4 lab” in late 2019 rather than January 2020, as has been previously reported. The new report said that a PLA major general “taking over part of the WIV demonstrates the CCP was concerned about the activity happening there as news of the virus was spreading” and that if the Chinese military actually took control in 2019, then “it would mean the CCP knew about the virus earlier, and that the outbreak began earlier.”
Meeting minutes from discussions between lab scientists and the WHO-China team reveal lab leak concerns were referred to as “conspiracy theories.” The WHO-China January report concluded the most likely origin for COVID-19 was a jump from animals to humans. However, since then, the U.S. and others have cast doubt on the credibility of the report, while Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said there was a “premature push” to dismiss the lab leak theory during the investigation. The Chinese government shot down a second investigation into its government labs in June.