The Biden administration cut off funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology after the Chinese lab failed to provide documents about safety and security measures.
The Department of Health and Human Services informed the lab on Monday of its decision, Bloomberg News reported, and told managers it intends to make the temporary suspension permanent.
The controversial lab has long been in the spotlight because of its research on the virus and questions about whether COVID-19 escaped from the facility. Chinese authorities have failed to give World Health Organization experts and US officials free access to the site, as they seek to answer questions about the origins of the epidemic.
Many have pointed to the lab, and not nearby markets, as the source of the virus, which has killed 7 million people and led to a global shutdown.
The Biden administration began a review of the site in September and concluded that it did not comply with federal regulations and therefore should not receive federal funding.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has long been suspected as the source of the Covid pandemic, but the CIA has been unable to confirm the reports. The FBI and the Department of Energy have already concluded that the ‘lab leak’ theory is the most likely.
Virologist Shi Zheng-li, left, works with his colleague at the P4 lab of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2017
‘This step will ensure [Wuhan Institute of Virology] not receive another dollar of federal funding,’ a federal spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.
The National Institutes of Health stopped funding the site in June 2020 — shortly after the pandemic began.
Last month, the Director of National Intelligence released their long-awaited report to Congress on the intelligence community’s assessment of the origin of COVID-19 and their ‘lab leak’ theory.
In March, President Joe Biden signed a bill to release intelligence about the origins of COVID-19.
The DNI’s 10-page report, published on June 23, did not provide any new conclusions about the Wuhan lab and showed that various agencies are divided as to the source of the epidemic.
The Department of Energy, which oversees biological research labs in the US, concluded in February with ‘low confidence’ that the virus likely came from a lab in Wuhan. The FBI reached the same conclusion with moderate confidence.
The National Intelligence Council and four other agencies disagreed and said the epidemic started naturally.
Meanwhile, the CIA is on the fence and cannot say for sure how it started because of repeated blocks by Chinese authorities.
“The Central Intelligence Agency and one other agency are unable to determine the precise origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, as both estimates rely on significant assumptions or are challenged by conflicting reporting,” the report said.
Joe Biden, pictured June 23, ordered the declassification of all COVID intelligence reports in March
The Intelligence Community was asked to investigate ‘whether the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—resulted from natural contact with an infected animal or a laboratory-associated incident’.
Reports suggest that both natural exposures and lab leaks may have been the source of the outbreak, and that none of the US intelligence agencies have definitively concluded how the epidemic began.
The report states, ‘All agencies continue to assess whether both natural and laboratory-associated sources remain plausible hypotheses to explain the first human infection.
The report noted that the Wuhan lab worked with the Chinese military on a bioweapons program.
From 2017-19, scientists were assigned to the lab to “enhance China’s knowledge of pathogens and early disease warning capabilities for the defense and biosecurity needs of the military.”
The report noted, however, that investigators found no evidence of lab technicians manufacturing Covid-19.
A Sinovac employee works in a lab at a factory manufacturing the SARS CoV-2 vaccine for COVID-19 in Beijing.
Scientists have discovered a new coronavirus in a mineshaft in southern China’s Yunnan that has been linked to several deaths (File Photo: Scientists collect bats from a cave in Guangdong)
The report states, ‘Prior to the pandemic, we assess that WIV scientists conducted extensive research on the coronavirus, including animal samples and genetic analysis.
‘We continue to have no indication that WIV’s pre-pandemic research holdings included SARSCoV-2 or a close ancestor, nor any direct evidence that a specific research-related incident involving WIV staff occurred prior to the pandemic that could have caused the COVID pandemic. . ‘
The lab had one of the world’s largest collections of bat specimens and worked with pangolins and mice to study the coronavirus.
The lab worked to genetically modify viruses.
However, they do not believe that their experiments led to COVID-19.
The report states, ‘We have assessed that some WIV scientists have genetically engineered coronaviruses using common laboratory practices.
‘The IC has no data indicating that any WIV genetic engineering work is closely related to SARS-CoV-2, a close ancestor, or a backbone virus that is sufficiently closely related to be the source of the pandemic.’
The report claims there were concerns about the lab’s security protocols, though they could not say for sure that lax security led to a leak.
‘Some WIV researchers likely did not take adequate biosafety precautions to handle SARS-like coronaviruses at least some time before the pandemic, increasing the risk of accidental virus exposure,’ the report states.
‘Prior to the pandemic, the WIV was working to improve at least some biosecurity conditions and training.
‘We are not aware of any specific biosecurity incident at WIV that triggered the outbreak, and it appears to have been routine biosecurity training at WIV rather than an emergency response by China’s leadership.’
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (pictured) launched a secret research initiative that saw them fuse coronaviruses in a series of risky experiments.
The report noted the ‘need to update aging equipment, need for additional disinfection equipment and improve ventilation systems’.
The report discusses illness among scientists working in the lab in the fall of 2019, with symptoms similar to those of Covid.
But, again, officials say the evidence is by no means conclusive.
‘Several WIV researchers were ill with symptoms in the fall of 2019; Some of their symptoms are consistent with but not diagnostic of Covid-19.
‘The IC continues to assess whether this data neither supports nor refutes hypotheses about the origin of the epidemic as the researchers’ symptoms could be caused by several diseases and some symptoms were not consistent with COVID-19.’
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