New information on Wuhan researchers' illness furthers debate on pandemic origins

A view of the P4 lab and the Wuhan Institute of Virology is seen after a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan in China's Hubei province on Wednesday Feb. 3 2021

Three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care in November 2019, weeks before Beijing disclosed the COVID-19 pandemic, a USA media report said, citing a previously undisclosed American intelligence document that could add weight to growing calls for a full scale probe of whether the coronavirus may have escaped from China's top bio lab. The Journal wrote that the report "could add weight to growing calls for a fuller probe of whether the COVID-19 virus may have escaped from the laboratory".

Newly disclosed United States intel found three Wuhan lab workers fell ill with COVID-19 symptoms in fall 2019.

Interestingly, there is also good enough reason to question the timing of the story as politically expedient, particularly to alter the atmospherics of this week's World Health Assembly meeting, WHO's highest decision-making body.

According to the WSJ, current and former officials familiar with the latest intelligence report about the lab researchers have differing views about the supporting evidence for the assessment.

"The report that you mentioned about three people getting sick, that is not true", Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing Monday in Beijing.

China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, according to one of the team's investigators, Reuters reported in February, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began.

US intelligence agencies are examining reports that researchers at a Chinese virology laboratory were seriously ill in 2019 a month before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, according to USA government sources who cautioned that there is still no proof the disease originated at the lab.

"Those claims are groundless", Yuan said. "The lab is unaware of this situation and does not even know where such information came from".

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WIV's Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases chief independently disproved any trace of a virus leak from her laboratories, and the U.S. National Security Council - in a rare veiled maneuver - has refused to play into the intelligence story's lab theory plot beforehand: "We're not going to make pronouncements that prejudge an ongoing World Health Organization study into the source of SARS-CoV-2", said a spokeswoman for the NSC.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council told the Journal that the Biden administration still has questions on the origin of the virus but plausible theories should be investigated by WHO.

Released five years ahead the Covid-19 outbreak, it nails Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronaviruses as a "new era of genetic weapons" that can be "artificially manipulated into an emerging human edisease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before". "And his cronies were really denigrating anyone who was suggesting we should investigate the lab leak hypothesis now starting to say 'Well actually, it may be more than a remarkable coincidence that China's only level-four biosafety lab happens to be in the very place where this entire pandemic started'".

The U.S. intelligence community "hasn't ruled out either theory", one official U.S. source said.

The Trump-led Republican government had argued that they thought the coronavirus was lab-manufactured.

Significantly, Tedros said the team has concluded that leak from the WIV as alleged by former United States president Donald Trump is the "least likely hypothesis" but it requires further probe.

The lab has not released raw data or documents on its work with coronaviruses in bats, according to one of the World Health Organization team's investigators, as Reuters reported in February, which could potentially make tracing the pandemic's origin more hard.

It's been nearly two years since COVID-19 emerged, and we still lack the transparency behind the origin of the pandemic. Authorities also refused to provide pre-December 2019 samples from a blood bank in Wuhan for antibody testing.

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