Did COVID-19 escape from Wuhan Lab? New report suggests so
Three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China fell sick and sought hospital care in November 2019, weeks before the country officially revealed the outbreak of COVID-19, the Wall Street Journal reported citing a previously undisclosed US intelligence report. The development is significant as calls for a broader probe into whether the coronavirus might have escaped from a laboratory continue to grow.
Report came ahead of a WHO meeting on probe
The report came ahead of a scheduled meeting of the World Health Organization's decision-making body, which is expected to discuss the next phase of an investigation into COVID-19's origins. However, officials cited by the paper remained divided over the report. While some said the evidence was strong, others believed the issue required further investigation and more corroboration.
WHO team said lab leak was 'extremely unlikely'
Earlier this year, a WHO-led team had spent weeks in Wuhan to investigate the coronavirus' origins. In its final report, the team said the virus was most likely transmitted to humans from bats through another animal, adding a lab leak was "extremely unlikely." However, scientists from around the world have since called for a more "rigorous" data-based probe to rule out the lab theory.
Several researchers fell sick in 2019, US fact sheet said
Notably, the previous US federal government, led by Donald Trump, had said it suspected the virus had escaped from a Chinese lab. A State Department fact sheet read, "The US government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses."
'US continues to hype the lab leak theory,' China says
Meanwhile, China has repeatedly denied the lab leak theory and said the virus came from animals. On Sunday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry slammed the US administration while citing the WHO team's conclusions. "The US continues to hype the lab leak theory," it said. "Is it actually concerned about tracing the source or trying to divert attention?"
COVID-19 killed over 34 lakh globally
Virologists believe November 2019 was the time when the coronavirus started circulating in the city of Wuhan. China has, however, said the first confirmed case was reported on December 8 that year. The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to almost all the countries across the globe, sickening more than 16 crore people and claiming the lives of over 34 lakh.