There is “increasing confidence” that China blamed a wet market in Wuhan to deflect how the novel coronavirus originated in a nearby government laboratory, according to a new report.
As sources familiar with China’s early actions told Fox News, the breach came not as part of an effort to construct a bioweapon, but rather as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to show its abilities to study and fight viruses was comparable to those of the United States.
The unnamed sources were not identified, and it is not immediately clear whether they were intelligence officials or other members of the Trump administration. But Fox News reported they were briefed on China’s initial efforts to cover up the outbreak and had reviewed pertinent documents.
One such source suggested this could be the “costliest government coverup of all time.”
The report said the virus was first transmitted from bat-to-human and “patient zero” was a lab employee who was accidentally infected before spreading the disease outside the lab. Records outlining initial reactions at the lab as well as early attempts to contain the virus are said to exist. Sources also characterized the World Health Organization as being part of a cover-up from the very beginning.
Fox News reporter John Roberts added more details while asking President Trump about the claims during Wednesday’s White House coronavirus task force press briefing.
“Multiple sources are telling Fox News today that the United States now has high confidence that, while the coronavirus is a naturally occurring virus, it emanated from a virology lab in Wuhan, that, because of lax safety protocols, an intern was infected, who later infected her boyfriend, and then went to the wet market in Wuhan, where it then began to spread,” Roberts said.
Trump neither confirmed nor denied the reporting, but noted that “more and more we’re hearing the story — and we’ll see.” The president added that “we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.”
When pressed by Roberts about whether he had raised Chinese lab security in his recent call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump dodged.
“I don’t want to discuss what I talked to him about the laboratory,” Trump said. “It’s inappropriate right now.”
The WHO concluded that the COVID-19 virus first appeared in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, at the end of 2019, and an investigative report in February found “early cases identified in Wuhan are believed to have acquired infection from a zoonotic source” in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Gao Fu, the director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, claimed “the origin of the new coronavirus is the wildlife sold illegally in a Wuhan seafood market.”
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that military intelligence was looking into the coronavirus origins.
“On the lab piece … it should be no surprise to you that we’ve taken a keen interest in that, and we’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that,” Milley said. “And I would just say at this point that it’s inconclusive — although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural. But we don’t know for certain.”
A Washington Post piece this week reported that two years ago U.S. embassy officials in China raised concerns about biosecurity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China’s first biosafety level 4 lab which researches infectious diseases, including coronaviruses from bats.
One “sensitive but unclassified” State Department cable warned in 2018 about a “serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory” located just miles from the Wuhan wet market, to which most but not all of the earliest COVID-19 cases were traced.
Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ted Cruz of Texas, among others, have speculated that the novel coronavirus may have originated from an accidental lab contamination.
A report by Yahoo News on Tuesday cited nine current and former national security officials who confirmed U.S. spy agencies are looking into whether the novel coronavirus started as an inadvertent lab escape.
The New York Times reported that Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, also suspected the coronavirus may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told the Washington Examiner, “The first human infection could have occurred as a natural accident, with a virus passing from bat to human, possibly through another animal.” But the professor added, “The first human infection also could have occurred as a laboratory accident, with a virus accidentally infecting a laboratory worker.”
The Lancet, a medical journal, published a study from Chinese researchers concluding that most but not all early cases of the novel coronavirus could be tied to the Wuhan wet market.