WASHINGTON, DC – The Wall Street Journal announced on Sunday that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sought hospital treatment in November 2019, citing a previously undisclosed US intelligence survey.
The article, according to the newspaper, may bolster calls for a wider investigation into whether the COVID-19 virus escaped from the lab.
The report was released on the eve of a meeting of the World Health Organization’s decision-making body, which is expected to address the next steps of the COVID-19 investigation.
The Biden administration continues to have “significant concerns regarding the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its roots within the Peoples Republic of China,” according to a National Security Council spokeswoman.
She stated that the US government was collaborating with the WHO and other member states to endorse an expert-led investigation into the pandemic’s origins that was “free of intervention or politicization.”
“We would not make statements that prejudge an ongoing WHO investigation into the source of SARS-CoV-2, but we have been clear that sound and technically plausible hypotheses should be thoroughly tested by international experts,” she said.
According to the Journal, current and former officials familiar with the lab researchers’ intelligence shared a variety of opinions about the report’s supporting facts, with one unidentified source suggesting it required “further analysis and additional corroboration.”
In March, the United States, Norway, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries expressed their dissatisfaction with the WHO-led COVID-19 origins report, calling for further analysis and complete access to all relevant human, animal, and other data from the outbreak’s early stages.
According to a source familiar with the campaign, Washington wants China to cooperate and be more transparent.
On Sunday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
Following a visit to the virology institute in February, a WHO-led team concluded that a lab leak was highly unlikely, according to China’s foreign ministry on Sunday. In response to the Journal’s request for comment, the ministry said, “The US continues to hype the lab leak hypothesis.” “Does it care about tracing the source or is it attempting to deflect attention?”
The virus may have escaped from a Chinese facility, according to the Trump administration, which Beijing denies.
“The US government has reason to believe that many researchers within the WIV got sick in autumn 2019, before the first confirmed case of the outbreak, with symptoms associated with both COVID-19 and normal seasonal illnesses,” according to a State Department fact sheet published at the end of the Trump administration. It did not specify how many researchers were involved.
According to one of the team’s investigators, China declined to send raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team investigating the pandemic’s roots, Reuters reported in February, potentially complicating attempts to understand how the epidemic started.