Three researchers from the Chinese Institute of Virology in Wuhan (WIV) sought hospital care in November 2019, months before China disclosed the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing a report from previously undisclosed US intelligence.
The newspaper said the 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 broader investigation into whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped the lab. .
The 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.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Council made no comment on the Journal report, but said the Biden administration continued to have “serious questions about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, including 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.
The Journal said current and former officials familiar with the lab’s researcher intelligence expressed a range of views on the strength of the evidence supporting the report, with an unnamed person saying “an investigation is needed.” more in-depth and additional corroboration ”.
The United States, Norway, Canada, Britain and other countries in March expressed concerns about the WHO-led COVID-19 study, and called for a further investigation and full access to all relevant data on humans, animals and other epidemics.
Washington is keen to ensure increased cooperation and transparency from China, according to a source close to the effort.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
China’s Foreign Ministry noted on Sunday that a WHO-led team concluded that a lab leak was extremely unlikely after a February visit to the institute of virology. “The United States continues to exaggerate the theory of laboratory leaks,” the ministry said in response to a request for comment from the Journal. “Is he really concerned with finding the source or trying to distract?” “
The Trump administration had said it suspected the virus had escaped from a Chinese lab, which Beijing denies.
A State Department fact sheet released towards the end of the Trump administration stated 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 COVIDs. -19 and common seasonal illnesses. He did not say how many researchers.
China has refused to give raw data on the first cases of COVID-19 to the WHO-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, according to one of the team’s investigators, Reuters reported in February, which could complicate efforts to understand how the epidemic started.
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