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Wuhan lab staff sought hospital care before COVID-19 outbreak disclosed: WSJ

Berita 24 English -  Three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sought hospital care in November 2019. Before Chin...

Berita 24 English - 
Three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sought hospital care in November 2019. Before China announced the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing an undisclosed US intelligence report.

According to the newspaper, the report – which includes new information about the number of researchers affected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospitalizations – may bolster calls for a broader investigation into whether the COVID-19 virus escaped the laboratory.

The report was released on the eve of a World Health Organization decision-making body meeting, which is expected to discuss the next phase of an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council declined to comment on the Journal report. Still, she stated that the Biden administration continues to have "serious concerns about the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its origins in the Peoples Republic of China."

She stated that the US government collaborated with the WHO and other member states to support an expert-led investigation into the pandemic's origins that was "impartial and depoliticized."

"We will not make statements that prejudge the ongoing WHO investigation into the source of SARS-CoV-2, but we have been clear that sound and technically credible hypotheses should be thoroughly evaluated by international experts," she said.

According to the Journal, current and former officials familiar with intelligence about the lab researchers expressed varying opinions about the report's supporting evidence, with one unnamed source stating that it required "further investigation and additional corroboration."

In March, the United States, Norway, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries expressed concern about the WHO-led COVID-19 origins study and called for additional investigation and full access to all relevant human, animal, and other data outbreak's early stages.

According to a source familiar with the effort, Washington is eager to ensure greater Chinese cooperation and transparency.

On Sunday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

On Sunday, China's foreign ministry stated that a WHO-led team concluded in February that a lab leak was highly improbable following a visit to the virology institute. "The United States continues to exaggerate the lab leak theory," the ministry responded to a Journal request for comment. "Is it truly interested in tracing the source, or is it attempting to deflect attention?"

The Trump administration previously stated that it suspected the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory, claiming Beijing denies it.

According to a State Department fact sheet released near the end of the Trump administration, "the US government has reason to believe that several WIV researchers became ill in autumn 2019, before the outbreak's first case being identified, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses." There was no indication of the number of researchers.

According to Reuters in February, China refused to provide raw data on early COVID-19 cases to a WHO-led team investigating the pandemic's origins, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began.

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