New Delhi: In a recently released 21-page report titled “Covid-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology”, Republican members on the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) have stated that “significant circumstantial evidence” exists that the Covid-19 virus originated from a leak at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), and that the US government “may have funded or collaborated” in the research that led to it.

The Sunday Guardian has a copy of this report dated 19 May.

This report is likely to bring more global attention to the WIV and the alleged act of omission, commission done by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, which is managing the laboratory, which led to the escape of the Covid-19 virus from China to the rest of the world.

“The threads of circumstantial information suggest the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and resulting Covid-19 pandemic could have been the result of an accidental leak from the WIV, particularly given the absence of credible information that supports a zoonotic transmission. Unfortunately, Beijing has hindered the conduct of a full, credible investigation. There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence, however, to support a laboratory leak as the origination of Covid-19, while there is no substantive evidence supporting the natural zoonosis hypothesis,” the report states.

The report further goes on to say, “To prevent or quickly mitigate future pandemics, it’s crucial for health experts and the U.S. government to understand how the Covid-19 virus originated”, but efforts have been “stymied” by China.

“Nevertheless, significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the Covid-19 outbreak may have been a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” the report claimed, listing what it saw as some of the evidence, including: 1. China’s “history of research lab leaks” resulting in infections; 2. multiple “warnings from US diplomats in China as early as 2017 that the Wuhan laboratory was conducting dangerous research on coronaviruses without following necessary safety protocols” that risked a potential outbreak; 3. “Gain of Function research being conducted at the Wuhan laboratory that made coronaviruses more infectious in humans”; evidence that “several researchers at the Wuhan laboratory were sickened with Covid-19-like symptoms” in the autumn of 2019; 4. the “involvement in the Wuhan laboratory of the Chinese military, which has a documented biological weapons program; 5. “multiple indications of attempts by Beijing to cover up the true circumstances of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

The report goes on to say that “by contrast, little circumstantial evidence has emerged to support the PRC’s claim that Covid-19 was a natural occurrence, having jumped from some other species to humans,” including the fact that “Chinese authorities have failed to identify the original species that allegedly spread the virus to humans, which is critical to their zoonotic transfer theory.”

The report was prepared by a team led by Devin Gerald Nunes, who is a Republican Congressman from California.

It further goes on to say, “There are also clear signs that the US government agencies and academic institutions may have funded or collaborated in Gain of Function research at the Wuhan laboratory. At least some of this research was published even after the US government had paused these kinds of studies in the United States due to ethical concerns over their biowarfare applicability and their potential to accidentally unleash a pandemic… Given the Chinese government’s documented biological weapons program, it is difficult to understand why the US government permitted collaborative research at the WIV, which had a known Chinese military presence.”

The report has also raised questions on the safety protocol that was in place at WIV. “The Chinese government has been conducting dangerous and controversial research on bat coronaviruses ever since the original SARS outbreak in 2002. Some of this research resulted in laboratory leaks including a 2004 incident in Beijing that caused an outbreak. After the SARS epidemic, and likely as a result of the publicly known laboratory leaks, the government of China initiated a plan to construct a national high-level biosafety laboratory system to prepare for and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks. The Biosafety Level-4 (BSL-4) laboratory at the WIV was the first in China’s plan to build between five and seven BSL-4 laboratories across the Chinese mainland by 2025. However, just because the laboratory has BSL-4 certification does not mean that research and experiments conducted on bat coronaviruses were done under the strictest safety procedures. The lead scientist at the WIV publicly acknowledged that coronavirus research was being conducted at that laboratory in BSL-2 or BSL-3 laboratories. BSL-2 laboratories only require that researchers wear laboratory coats and gloves, while BSL-4 laboratories require strict decontamination procedures and wearing a full-body positive pressure suit.”

Commenting on what it called the “Chinese Cover Up”, the report reads: “Since the initial Covid-19 outbreak, the Chinese government has lied, obfuscated, covered up, and blocked the flow of information about the origins of the pandemic. It took Beijing nearly three weeks to even acknowledge there was human-to-human transfer of the virus. The WIV and the Chinese government stymied and manipulated the World Health Organization’s 28-day review of Covid-19’s origins, and they silenced medical workers and journalists trying to report on the outbreak. Chinese National Health Commission officials confirmed that guidelines were issued to destroy samples of the coronavirus from the WIV because ‘laboratory conditions [could not] meet the requirements for the safe preservation of samples. Lastly, Chinese authorities suppressed all records at the WIV, even closing down the virus database. The world deserves unrestricted access to all this information, without Chinese meddling, in order to come to an informed scientific conclusion about the origins of Covid-19.”

This report by HPSCI comes after 18 of the world’s foremost Covid-19 researchers, in an open letter, asked for a new investigation of all possible origins of the virus while calling on China’s laboratories and agencies to “open their records” to independent analysis. The letter came a few weeks after a WHO mandated team that comprises 17 world and 17 Chinese scientists who did the “ground investigation” released a 120-page document on the origins of Covid-19 on 30 March, without coming out with any concrete result. The findings of this team were even questioned by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.