New information on Wuhan researchers' illness furthers debate on pandemic origins

Wuhan Institute of Virology lab

A report that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China fell ill with symptoms "consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness" in fall 2019, and some backsliding on the origins of the coronavirus by infectious diseases guru Dr Anthony Fauci, has returned the spotlight on Beijing and its possible culpability in letting loose a pandemic on the world. It may also add weight to calls for a broader probe of whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped from the laboratory.

The World Health Organization conducted an investigation into the origin of the virus, determined that it was likely to come from an animal host, and rated the risk of accidental leakage from the laboratory as "very low.".

"More investigation is still needed to determine the origin of the pandemic", said the 18 scientists, including Ravindra Gupta, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, and Jesse Bloom, who studies the evolution of viruses at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Importantly, the report doesn't explain why the researchers got sick or what their diagnosis was, the newspaper reported. It was months before China announced the Covid-19 pandemic.

Citing current and former U.S. officials, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that intelligence gathered by an "international partner" expanded on a State Department document confirming that the three Wuhan lab workers first became sick in November 2019.

The WSJ writeup builds on earlier credible reports that strongly suggest that a lab leak could have been the likely cause of the Covid-19 outbreak. 'Those claims are groundless. "The lab has not been aware of this situation [sick researchers in autumn 2019], and I don't even know where such information came from". But "Chinese will never forgive it", said one familiar with the underlying intelligence. China delayed access to global investigators for months after the initial outbreak, virtually guaranteeing that the lab had been deep-cleaned before any forensic analysis could be done, and investigators were also not allowed to view original data logs that scientists say would be critical to understanding the virus' origins.

Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, who was part of the World Health Organization team that traveled to China for the probe, told NBC News earlier this month that some scientists working at the Wuhan lab fell sick in fall 2019. That report described four scenarios for the pandemic's origins in order of likelihood, with the first being from bats via another animal.

Most scientists say they have seen nothing to corroborate the idea that the virus came from a USA military lab, and the White House has said there are no credible reasons to investigate it. Perhaps the real question here is why was Fauci so confident for a year that COVID-19 developed naturally, and why has he suddenly changed his mind.

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However, most scientists say they have seen nothing to corroborate the USA military lab origin theory.

The Wuhan Institute of Veterans Affairs studies bat coronaviruses and has a history of military research.

One of the investigators told CNN: "We still do not reach a clear conclusion other than that the virus originated in China".

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new intelligence emerged from a State Department fact sheet that was issued during the final days of Donald Trump's presidency.

Metzl, labeled by Carlson as the "original whistleblower", was roundly denounced by fellow Democrats at the onset of the pandemic for pushing the "fringe" theory that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab before claiming hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe.

The White House has not yet said whether it's seen evidence to disprove the lab leak theory but has joined calls for an independent investigation.

It further goes on to say, "There are also clear signs that the USA government agencies and academic institutions may have funded or collaborated in Gain of Function research at the Wuhan laboratory". Authorities also refused to provide pre-December 2019 samples from a blood bank in Wuhan for antibody testing.

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