The Wuhan Institute of Virology isn’t a particularly popular popular research institution at present, as you may have heard.
So, in case you aren’t up to speed yet, here’s a TL;DR version: The WIV is an institute in the city where the novel coronavirus began that was doing research on bats and coronaviruses. The current theory is that, instead of coming from edible bats sold at the Wuhan wet market, the virus somehow came from the WIV, which was close to the wet market in question.
More specifically, the theory goes as such: The wet market didn’t sell bats, according to sources, and the bats from which the virus might have come were native to provinces more than 500 miles away from the market. In addition, the WIV had posted several job listings around the time the virus was first spreading that had to do with novel coronaviruses being studied at the lab.
Furthermore, American diplomats claimed the lab “operates at biosecurity level 2, a level significantly less secure than the level-4 standard claimed by the Wuhan Insititute of Virology lab.”
Notice I said “theory” and not “conspiracy theory.” That last part is not information from Infowars or even from a conservative media source, mind you. That’s from The Washington Post.
“Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats,” The Post reported last week.
“The cables have fueled discussions inside the U.S. government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus — even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge.
“In January 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing took the unusual step of repeatedly sending U.S. science diplomats to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had in 2015 become China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety (known as BSL-4). WIV issued a news release in English about the last of these visits, which occurred on March 27, 2018. The U.S. delegation was led by Jamison Fouss, the consul general in Wuhan, and Rick Switzer, the embassy’s counselor of environment, science, technology and health. Last week, WIV erased that statement from its website, though it remains archived on the Internet.”
It’s not just the one article. From a Washington Post editorial, again from last week: “A more troubling explanation is that the coronavirus was inadvertently spread from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which had carried out research on bat coronaviruses and possessed a biosafety level 4 facility, the most secure for handling highly pathogenic and infectious diseases. It is not beyond possibility that an accident or spill occurred.”
It gets worse. Reports indicate a grant from the American government — courtesy of the Obama administration — may have helped fund this research.
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, documents “show the Wuhan Institute of Virology undertook coronavirus experiments on mammals captured more than 1,000 miles away in Yunnan — funded by a $3.7 million grant from the US government.
“Sequencing of the Covid-19 genome has traced it to bats found in Yunnan’s caves.”
Much like The Post, the Daily Mail noted that while experts say “the balance of scientific advice” is on the side of the virus having originated via bats sold in the wet market, a lab accident is “no longer being discounted.”
Moreover, the Daily Mail reported, citing documents it obtained, scientists at the lab conducted research on coronavirus-infected bats funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health grant. The findings were published in 2017 in a study on the NIH’s website titled: “Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus.”
“Bat samplings were conducted ten times from April 2011 to October 2015 at different seasons in their natural habitat at a single location (cave) in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China,” the study reads.
Fox News has confirmed that U.S. taxpayer funding went to the WIV.
“According to public documents compiled by the White Coat Waste Project and shared with Fox News, The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been involved with research funded by $7.1 million worth of U.S. government grants from the National Institutes of Health as it has participated in projects in collaboration with U.S. institutions. One grant for research on bat coronaviruses has received $3.7 million and another grant involving injecting viruses into mice’s brains got $3.4 million,” Fox reported last week.
Fox did note that: “It is not clear exactly how much U.S. funding went directly to the Wuhan Institute of Virology because it worked in collaboration with other institutions on the projects funded by the American grants.”
President Donald Trump, for his part, has pledged to put an end to this, while arguing the Obama administration is to blame.
During a White House news conference last week, a reporter told Trump: “There’s also another report that the NIH, under the Obama administration, in 2015 gave that lab $3.7 million in a grant. Why would the U.S. give a grant like that to China?”
Trump said he’d heard rumblings of this before.
“The Obama administration gave them a grant of $3.7 million?” he replied, according to the White House transcript of the briefing. “I’ve been hearing about that. And we’ve instructed that if any grants are going to that area — we’re looking at it, literally, about an hour ago, and also early in the morning. We will end that grant very quickly.”
Meanwhile, a letter from the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom and published by the Daily Mail condemned any reporting that ties COVID-19 to the WIV.
“Hasty and reckless allegations, such as naming China as the origin in an attempt to shift the blame before any scientific conclusion, is irresponsible and will definitely do harm to international cooperation at this critical time,” the letter said. “China and the UK exchanged views seriously on the origin of the virus and reached consensus.
“In his telephone conversation with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out that ‘alarmingly, some people are attempting to politicize the epidemic, label the virus and stigmatize China,’” the letter added.
“Raab expressed the UK’s firm opposition to politicizing the COVID-19 outbreak and fully agrees with China that the source of the virus is a scientific issue that requires professional and science-based assessment.”
Of course, there’s nothing preventing international cooperation if there’s open reporting on the matter — unless, of course, China feels the need to break off that cooperation should a country allow that reporting, which is essentially telling countries that they need to shut down freedom of the press if they expect Chinese assistance.
But then, why should we be surprised that this is how China operates? This is always how China operates. Do as they tell you or else.
So then why, pray tell, did the Obama administration reportedly give the Wuhan Institute of Virology $3.7 million to conduct research into novel coronaviruses? No matter where COVID-19 came from, he owes the American people an explanation.
Author: C. Douglas Golden