Wuhan lab staff rushed to hospital a month before China first reports COVID-19 –

Wuhan lab staff rushed to hospital a month before China first reports COVID-19 – fr

Three researchers from the Chinese Institute of Virology in Wuhan required hospital treatment in November 2019, US intelligence report says

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WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) – Three researchers from the Chinese Institute of Virology in Wuhan (WIV) sought hospital care in November 2019, a month before China reported the first cases of COVID-19, reported Sunday the Wall Street Journal, citing from the United States. intelligence report.

The newspaper said the previously undisclosed report – which provides new details on the number of researchers affected, the time of their illness and their hospital visits – could add weight to calls for a larger investigation to determine whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped. the laboratory.

The Journal said current and former officials familiar with the intelligence expressed a range of views on the strength of the evidence supporting the report, with an anonymous person saying “further investigation and corroboration are needed.” additional”.

The first cases of what would eventually be known as COVID-19 were reported in late December 2019 in the city of Wuhan in central China, where the advanced laboratory specializing in coronavirus research is located.

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Chinese scientists and officials have consistently rejected the laboratory leak hypothesis, saying SARS-CoV-2 could have circulated to other areas before hitting Wuhan, and could even have entered China from another country via imported frozen food shipments or the wildlife trade.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday that it was “totally false” that three WIV staff members had fallen ill.

“The United States continues to exaggerate the theory of laboratory leaks,” he said. “Does he care about traceability or is he just trying to distract?” “

The Journal report came on the eve of a meeting of the World Health Organization’s decision-making body, which is expected to discuss the next phase of an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

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Asked about the report, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said via email that the organization’s technical teams are now deciding next steps. He said more study was needed on the role of animal markets as well as the laboratory leak hypothesis.

A spokeswoman for the United States National Security Council did not comment on the report, but said the Biden administration continued to have “serious questions about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic , including its origins in the People’s Republic of China ”.

She said the US government was working with the WHO and other member states to support an expert-led assessment of the origins of the pandemic “without interference or politicization.”

“We are not going to make statements that prejudge an ongoing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV-2, but we have made it clear that sound and technically credible theories should be carefully evaluated by experts. international, ”she said.

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A joint study on the origins of COVID-19 by the WHO and China published in late March said it was “extremely unlikely” that he escaped from a laboratory.

But China has been accused of failing to disclose raw data on the first cases of COVID-19 to the WHO team, and the United States, the European Union and other Western countries have called Beijing. to grant “full access” to independent experts.

A State Department fact sheet released towards the end of the Trump administration said that “the US government has reason to believe that several WIV researchers fell ill in the fall of 2019, before the first identified case of the epidemic, with symptoms compatible with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses. He did not say how many researchers.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley in Beijing, David Stanway in Shanghai and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Andrew Heavens)

Reuters, 24/05/21 05h37


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