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Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee just released a report citing “significant circumstantial evidence” that COVID-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, and that Washington “may have funded or collaborated” in research leading to the outbreak — suspicions that in recent weeks have become pretty mainstream.
So two points: 1) Why didn’t Democrats sign on? 2) How foolish Facebook now looks for blocking The Post’s February 2020 column that first raised the Wuhan-lab-leak possibility.
The turn began when 18 top world scientists challenged the World Health Organization’s superficial investigation that called the lab-leak scenario “extremely unlikely.” They called for “a proper investigation,” noting that zero evidence supports the theory that the virus simply jumped from bats.
Then came the landmark essay by ex-New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade, detailing the science that makes the lab-leak theory more credible and flagging the real possibility that the NYC-based EcoHealth Alliance may have used federal funding to pay for coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Peter Daszak, EcoHealth’s president, has been a prime force seeking to discredit the lab-leak theory, organizing a Lancet letter that attacked it and even serving on the WHO team “investigating” in Wuhan.
Notably, Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control chief Rochelle Walensky have now both conceded that the pandemic might’ve started in that lab.
Meanwhile, China absolutely refuses to allow independent access to the lab or its records — which means it’s hiding something (if only other biowarfare research that it insists it’s not doing).
“Jumps” across species require time for a virus to adapt, and it would likely infect at least one intermediate species before transmission to humans. But tests of 80,000 animal samples in the first infected areas of China all came back negative for COVID-19. And the bat species most likely to carry coronaviruses dwells 1,000 miles away from Wuhan and would have been in hibernation when the first cases appeared.
That this particular coronavirus showed up seemingly out of nowhere, perfectly suited to attack humans, would be quite the mystery if it hadn’t first popped up in a city with two virology institutes that were studying bat coronaviruses.
Beyond routine observations, those studies amounted to what the House Republicans called “dangerous research” conducted without “necessary safety protocols.”
This is where it gets really messy.
MIT identified work by Shi Zhengli, a top scientist in the Wuhan lab, as an example of “gain of function” research, a method of developing vaccines by first making a virus more potent and tailored to attack human cells. She did much of her work in a room with only the same level of sanitary and safety measures as a US dentist’s office.
And she told Scientific American that on hearing of the first cases in Wuhan, her first thought was to wonder if her lab was the source.
China in general has a history of research leaks resulting in infections, and the State Department issued warnings about these specific experiments and the lack of trained personnel involved as early as 2017. Oh, and Chinese media were discussing improper waste disposal at the Wuhan Institute, and employees selling lab animals on the black market, before the outbreak.
Several of the institute’s researchers exhibited COVID-like symptoms in fall 2019. Cell-phone use in the facility stopped for three weeks in October, suggesting a work halt, perhaps for evacuation or decontamination.
In short, China has a lot of explaining to do — as does the Fauci-led National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Newsweek reports put millions into Wuhan coronavirus research.
The House Republicans want a full release of all federal information on the pandemic’s origins. That would be at least a start on clearing up the mysteries.
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