U.S. experts: China does not cooperate with the United States still has the means to start a new crown traceability investigation

The United States has formally proposed to Beijing to conduct the second phase of a retrospective investigation of the New Coronavirus in China. In a June 11 phone call with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party’s Central Political Bureau in charge of foreign affairs, Secretary of State Blinken asked China to increase cooperation and transparency on the traceability of the new coronavirus, including conducting a second phase of the expert-led World Health Organization (WHO) virus traceability investigation in China. Even if China does not cooperate, experts said, the United States has the means to initiate a related investigation.

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to participate in the Group of Seven (G7) leaders’ summit in the United Kingdom and the following NATO summit, as well as the U.S.-European leaders’ summit, will also raise the request for a new WHO investigation into the source of the new coronavirus. Bloomberg (Bloomberg) revealed a draft communiqué of the G-7 summit, G-7 leaders called on the WHO to promote the second phase of the traceability of the new coronavirus investigation, and the investigation should be “transparent, evidence-based, expert-led and uninterrupted.

Calls for China to be investigated rise as lab leak claims heat up

Calls for the Chinese government to allow a transparent, open and unfettered investigation into the origin of the virus are growing in the United States after President Joe Biden ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts to investigate the origin of the new coronavirus in late May and after a number of prominent scientists turned out to support a more comprehensive investigation into the theory that the source of the new coronavirus may have been a leak from a Wuhan laboratory.

Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, was one of the first scientists to suggest that the new coronavirus could have come from a laboratory leak or accident. He and a number of other internationally renowned scientists had co-signed an open letter to WHO in March this year, arguing that there were flaws in the joint WHO-China virus traceability investigation, which did not address the hypothesis that the virus came from a laboratory escape.

In an interview with the Voice of America, Ebright said the scientific community is currently divided over whether the virus came from nature or escaped from a laboratory because the current evidence does not disprove the laboratory leak theory.

There is no scientific evidence that allows us to choose between the two possibilities of a natural spill origin and a laboratory spill origin,” he said. All the scientific evidence and all the other safe evidence is equally consistent with both possibilities. There has never been a scientific consensus to the contrary.”

An article published June 8 on the website of Nature, one of the world’s leading academic journals, exploring whether the new coronavirus could have come from a laboratory leak, takes the same view. The article said scientists do not have enough evidence on the origin of SARS-CoV-2 to rule out the hypothesis of a lab leak or to prove an alternative – that the virus originated in nature.

However, some scientists who once said the virus could have come from a “laboratory leak” are now taking a more cautious stance. In an article published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in May, Nobel laureate David Baltimore, a leading American biologist specializing in virus research, seemed to suggest a specific feature of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, namely the furin protease The furin cleavage site is solid evidence supporting the idea that the virus is of artificially modified origin. This view was once widely cited. But he recently changed his tune, saying his so-called “smoking gun” claim was not rigorous enough (overstated). He told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s hard to determine whether the sequence is naturally occurring or whether it’s artificial. I wouldn’t rule out either of the two sources.” A Voice of America reporter tried to get Baltimore to clarify this, but did not hear back from him by press time.

Ebright: Lab leak theory should be left to forensic investigation

Ebright said the investigation into whether the new coronavirus originated in a laboratory is beyond the realm of science, and that the investigation into the virus’ laboratory leak theory should be completed by a forensic investigation.

The answer to that question will come from a traditional investigation, a forensic investigation, and there is room for that in China,” he said. But such an investigation would require the cooperation of the Chinese government and the cooperation of the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research. This form of investigation would take the form of inspections, inspection of laboratory facilities, inspection of laboratory notebooks, inspection of electronic databases, inspection of freezer samples, taking samples from the freezer and sequencing them, interviewing staff, all personnel from groundskeepers and maintenance personnel to security personnel to laboratory staff and managers, to interview them privately, one by one, without government oversight. This would require access to the medical records of these personnel and serological samples of these personnel.”

But so far, Beijing has been tough. In a call with Secretary Blinken, Yang Jiechi, director of the Foreign Affairs Working Committee Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, accused the new coronavirus leak from the Wuhan lab of being a “ridiculous story” fabricated by some on the U.S. side. He said China is seriously concerned about this and urged the U.S. side not to politicize the issue of traceability, but to focus on international cooperation to fight the epidemic.

The World Health Organization also recently said they could not force China to provide more information on the source of the new coronavirus. Michael Ryan, the organization’s executive director of emergency programs, said June 7 when asked how the WHO could force China to be more open, “WHO has no power to force anyone in this regard.”

Even if China doesn’t cooperate, the U.S. still has the ability to launch an investigation

But Ebright argued that even without China’s cooperation, the U.S. still has the ability to launch the investigation in question within the United States.

The key point here is that all of the work done by the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research on the SARS-associated coronavirus in bats was done in collaboration with a non-governmental organization through a contract,” he said. This NGO is located in New York City and is called the ‘EcoHealth Alliance,’ so the ‘EcoHealth Alliance’ will have electronic and paper documents on its hard drives and in its file cabinets that have the potential to provide very important and useful information to address the origins issue, there will be their proposals for funding, grant progress reports, raw data from the Wuhan lab, analytical data from the Wuhan lab, draft scientific papers written with the Wuhan lab, and extensive correspondence with the Wuhan lab. This is all information that the American public and American policy makers need to have access to because we pay for it. We provided $123 million that was given by the federal government to provide to the EcoHealth Alliance for this and other projects.”

Vanity Fair published a 12,000-word investigative story on June 3 revealing the EcoHealth Alliance’s collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research and its researcher, Zhengli Shi. Based on a 990 tax-exempt form filed by the EcoHealth Alliance with the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, the authors found that by 2018, the organization was pulling in up to $15 million in annual grants from a range of federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Shi Zhengli herself lists more than $1.2 million in U.S. government grants in her bio, including $665,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) between 2014 and 2019, and $559,500 from USAID during the same period. At least some of these funds were provided through the EcoHealth Alliance, the report said.

“Peter Dazak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, was the only expert from the United States on the WHO team sent to China to investigate the traceability of the virus. According to Vanity Fair, three candidates nominated by the U.S. government to serve on the panel – a U.S. FDA veterinarian, a CDC epidemiologist and a virologist from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – were not selected.

Ebright said the U.S. Congress or the Department of Justice should initiate an investigation as soon as possible and subpoena the individuals involved. Bomen (Matthew Pottinger), who served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, also previously said that Congress should establish a cross-party investigative committee to investigate the theory that the new coronavirus originated in a laboratory escape.

I think a bipartisan commission with subpoena power should be set up quickly,” Bomen testified June 8 at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. I think we need to stop (viral) gain-of-function (GIF) research and take the lead globally and reinstate Obama’s ban on GIF research that was intended to help predict the current pandemic but may actually have instead planted the seeds for this pandemic.”

Proponents of the theory that the new coronavirus came from a laboratory leak argue that gain-of-function research on viruses increases the pathogen’s pathogenicity and infectivity by cross-mixing different types of viruses, which is high-risk and could potentially lead to a virus leak.

China’s rebuttal

Yuan Zhiming, director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research, said they keep serum samples for laboratory staff every year and have not received any reports of abnormal disease, and all staff have tested negative for antibodies to the new coronavirus, according to a report published June 9 on the English website of the Chinese official media Global Times. Regarding the positive influenza cases from October to November 2019, he said that this was a retrospective study conducted by the institute in collaboration with Wuhan Union Medical College Hospital, where a total of 1,001 samples were collected from hospital patients, and no positive samples were found in the December 2019 samples, and four cases of mixed influenza and neo-coronavirus infection were found in 700 samples in January 2020. The four cases of mixed infections were not laboratory workers at the Wuhan Virus Institute, the report said.

This appears to be a response to a Wall Street Journal report in May, based exclusively on a U.S. State Department intelligence report, that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virus had sought treatment in hospitals after developing serious illnesses in November 2019. That report led in part to a resurgence of public opinion on the theory that the virus came from a lab leak.

Ebright told Voice of America that the claim is inconsistent with and contradicts information provided by the Chinese government to a WHO panel of experts on traceability investigations, as well as information obtained by the Australian and U.S. governments.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin recently again called the possibility that the new coronavirus came from a laboratory leak a “rumor” and said the U.S. should open the Ft. Detrick, Maryland, biological site for the WHO to conduct a traceability investigation of the virus.

Ebright said it was the Chinese government’s way of diverting attention from the source of the virus. A key thing to remember here is that the genetic evolutionary analysis, which is the family tree of the virus sequence, shows that the virus came from Wuhan, clearly shows that it came from Hubei province and (originated) in or near Wuhan between September and November 2009, so the time and place where the virus appeared is known,” he said. There is no ambiguity. There is no possibility whatsoever that (China) is saying that this virus emerged in or near Fort Detrick, it’s zero!”