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U.S. says Wuhan lab workers became sick with COVID-19 like symptoms weeks before pandemic started

"Only through transparency can we learn what caused this pandemic" - State Department

Updated: January 17, 2021 - 1:28pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Trump administration is raising new concerns about the origins of the pandemic in China, reporting researchers inside a Wuhan virology lab became sickened with COVID-19 like symptoms weeks before the country's communist leadership reported the outbreak started in a food market in that city.

"The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV (Wuhan Institute of Virology) became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses," reads the State Department report. "This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli's public claim that there was 'zero infection' among the WIV's staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses."

President Trump and others have since the Chinese Communist Party announced the outbreak Dec. 31,  2019, suspected the virus escaped from the lab. 

"Accidental infections in labs have caused several previous virus outbreaks in China and elsewhere, including a 2004 SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people, killing one," the report also states.

Department officials also called upon Chinese leaders to provide a full report of how the virus started, as a team of international researchers backed by the World Health Organization arrives in Wuhan to try to determine whether the virus in fact started after a woman ate a bat she purchased a "wet" food market in the city.

"For more than a year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic's origin, choosing instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation," State Department officials also said in the report. "Nearly two million people have died. Their families deserve to know the truth. Only through transparency can we learn what caused this pandemic and how to prevent the next one."