During a WHO-China Joint Study Press Conference on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, Marion Koopmans, right, and Peter Ben Embarek, middle, of a World Health Organization team look over at their Chinese counterpart Liang Wannian, left.
The ‘Wall Street Journal’ reported on Sunday that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sought hospital treatment in November 2019, months before China announced the COVID-19 pandemic, citing a previously undisclosed US intelligence study.
The study, according to the newspaper, could add weight to calls for a wider investigation into whether the COVID-19 virus escaped from the laboratory because it provides new information on the number of researchers infected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospital visits.
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 politicisation.”
“We’re not going to make statements that prejudge an ongoing WHO investigation into the source of SARS-CoV-2,” she said, “but we’ve been clear that sound and technically plausible hypotheses should be thoroughly tested by international experts.”
Current and former officials familiar with the lab researchers’ intelligence shared a number of opinions about the report’s supporting facts, according to the Journal, with one anonymous source claiming 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.
“The US government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses,” according to a State Department fact sheet released near the end of the Trump administration. It did not specify how many researchers were involved.