Researchers who worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China fell so ill with COVID-19-like symptoms in November 2019 they had to be hospitalized, according to a U.S. intelligence report that is sparking another look at the mysterious origins of the pathogen that upended the world.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the undisclosed intelligence report on Monday. A State Department fact sheet issued in January under the Trump administration said researchers had gotten sick on the cusp of the outbreak discovered in Wuhan in December 2019. But the new report underscores the extent of their symptoms.
The Journal said an “international partner offered the intelligence” but with divided sources, with some saying it needed shoring up and others saying it was of “exquisite quality.”
Either way, the report is sure to fuel suspicions the virus wasn’t of natural origins, particularly as the World Health Organization convenes for a global assembly and faces questions about its next steps in its fact-finding efforts.
Congressional Republicans and others were panned as conspiracy theorists in the early days of the pandemic for suggesting the virus escaped from a lab instead of naturally transferring from animals to humans.
The concept has gained wider acceptance since then, with scientists saying an initial WHO probe that found a lab escape “extremely unlikely” was inadequate.
The Biden administration on Monday insisted it wants to know the truth about the virus. But it is relying on an international effort to get more viral data from Beijing, which moved to cover up the early days of the outbreak.
Pressed at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing this month, he said: “I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I’m fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China.”
At an event hosted by the Poynter Institute earlier this month, Dr. Fauci said he hadn’t convinced the virus developed naturally.
“No, actually,” said Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at the May 11 event. “I am not convinced about that; I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.”