House Republicans recently released an addendum to the “Origins of COVID-19 “report that they published in September 2020. The addendum provides evidence to strengthen the claim that the Chinese lab, Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), is the possible source of the COVID-19 outbreak. It also cites papers written by WIV researchers as proof that they had the ability to genetically modify coronaviruses without leaving any trace of such modifications as early as 2016.
The updated report was released by Republican Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and authored by the Republican staff of the panel.
“As we continue to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe it’s time to completely dismiss the wet market as the source of the outbreak. Instead, as this report lays out, a preponderance of the evidence proves that all roads lead to the WIV,” McCaul said in a statement.
McCaul pointed out that the head of the Chinese CDC and the director of WIV’s BSL-4 lab had expressed concerns about the safety of labs in the country. He claims that the coronavirus leaked from WIV “sometime in late August or early September 2019” and that they frantically tried to cover up the issue by taking offline the virus database and asking for more funds to tighten security.
McCaul called on Congress to sanction scientists at WIV as well as Chinese Communist Party officials who were involved in covering up the incident. He also wants Peter Dzask, president of the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance that funneled funds from the American government to WIV research projects, to be subpoenaed to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“This was the greatest coverup of all time and has caused the deaths of more than four million people around the world, and people must be held responsible,” he added.
The addendum mentions that WIV had put in requests for maintenance of a new facility that was up and running for less than two years. Some of the maintenance requests were about “hazardous waste treatment system” and “environmental air disinfection system,” which indicates that the systems aimed at preventing lab leaks were not functioning as expected.
In a press briefing on August 3, a spokesperson from the Chinese foreign ministry dismissed the claims made by McCaul as “concocted lies and distorted facts,” accusing the U.S. congressman of carrying out “smears and slanders” against China to pursue “political gains.”
“If these US congressmen do have a sense of responsibility, even a tinge of it, for their own people, they should urge the U.S. government to release at the earliest the medical records of those infected in the unexplained outbreaks of respiratory disease in Virginia and the large-scale EVALI in Wisconsin and Maryland in 2019, and of US military personnel who fell ill during the Military World Games in Wuhan,” the spokesperson said.
The updated report comes as Beijing continues to reject requests from the World Health Organization (WHO) to conduct further investigation on the origin of coronavirus. The first phase of the WHO investigation had ended in February this year and dismissed the lab origin theory of the COVID-19 virus. However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had admitted that “all hypotheses remain on the table” and that the lab leak theory “requires further investigation.”
Ghebreyesus is calling for more access and transparency, urging China to cooperate for the second phase of the investigation. The WHO is looking for raw patient data from just before and after the start of the pandemic. Beijing had not shared this data last time.
In July, Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), told reporters that his country will “not accept such an origins-tracing plan” and insisted that sharing some of the data was impossible due to privacy concerns.
“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Zeng said.
At a press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that Washington fully backs the WHO’s phase two investigation plan and that the administration is “deeply disappointed” by the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) rejection of the inquiry.
“Their position is irresponsible and, frankly, dangerous. Alongside other member states around the world, we continue to call for China to provide the needed access to data and samples. And this is critical so we can understand to prevent the next pandemic. This is about saving lives in the future. And it’s not a time to be stonewalling,” Psaki said.