A U.S. intelligence report asserts that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China fell ill and required hospitalization in November 2019, adding to speculation that the COVID-19 virus escaped from the lab.
First reported on by the Wall Street Journal on May 23, the article noted, “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.’”
CNN pointed out that China told the World Health Organization that the first patient recorded with COVID symptoms was on Dec. 8, 2019.
But CNN wrote, “The intelligence community still does not know what the researchers were actually sick with … and continues to have low confidence in its assessments of the virus’ precise origins beyond the fact that it came from China.”
“At the end of the day, there is still nothing definitive,” according to one person CNN contacted who had access to the intelligence.
As Reuters reported on the COVID origin, Chinese “scientists and officials have consistently rejected the lab leak hypothesis, saying SARS-CoV-2 could have been circulating in other regions before it hit Wuhan, and might have even entered China from another country via imported frozen food shipments or wildlife trading.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on May 24 that it was “completely untrue” that three members of the staff at WIV had fallen ill.
Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most well-known infectious disease expert in the U.S., isn’t sure where the virus originated.
Asked during a Politifact event on May 11 whether he still believed the coronavirus originated naturally, he said, “No actually. I am not convinced about that, I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened … Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out.”
The Daily Mail covered American reaction to the report. While a National Security Council spokeswoman had no comment on the Journal’s report, she said the Biden administration continued to have questions about the pandemic’s earliest days.
“We’re not going to make pronouncements that prejudge an ongoing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV-2, but we’ve been clear that sound and technically credible theories should be thoroughly evaluated by international experts,” she added.
Earlier in 2021, a WHO study said the origins of the coronavirus likely came from bats that transferred to another animal before it began infecting humans. At the time, the WHO said a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.”