Scientists in China were running a covert project of dangerous experiments that caused a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and started the Covid outbreak, a report in The Sunday Times reveals.
Citing US investigators, the report said there was no published information on the work as it was done in collaboration with researchers from the Chinese military, which was funding it, and was pursuing bioweapons.
Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic more than three years ago, there has been a debate about whether the virus emerged due to a laboratory leak or was it from nature. And researchers who have over these years attempted to find the answer have been hampered by a lack of transparency from China, the country from where the virus first emerged.
China engaged in risky experiments on Covid virus
The Sunday Times report said that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had started hunting the origins of the Sars virus in 2003. It attracted funding from the US government through a New York-based charity.
The institute was engaged in risky experiments on coronaviruses it gathered from bat caves in southern China. Initially, the findings (of the experiments) were made public and the institute argued that the associated risks were justified as the work might help develop vaccines.
Fast forward to 2016, when researchers found a new type of coronavirus in a mineshaft in Mojiang in Yunnan province where people had died from symptoms similar to Sars.
And instead of warning the world, China did not report these deaths. The report said that the virusses found there are now recognized as the only members of Covid’s immediate family known to have existed pre-pandemic. They were transported to the Wuhan Institute and the work of its scientists became classified.
Researchers hospitalized with Covid symptoms
American investigators said the classified program was to make the mineshaft viruses more infectious to humans, the report added. The investigators believed this led to the creation of Covid and that it leaked into Wuhan after a laboratory accident.
“It has become increasingly clear that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was involved in the creation, promulgation, and cover-up of the Covid-19 pandemic,” one of the investigators said.
In November 2019, researchers working on these experiments were hospitalized with Covid-like symptoms, and their relatives died.
The Sunday Times report also pointed out that foreign experts seeking to identify the source of the pandemic were blocked from investigating by China.
Alice Hughes, a British bat expert, was a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences which oversees the Wuhan Institute. Hughes had been working in the mines. She said she was barred from speaking to the media about her research and was being watched by Beijing. The restrictions forced her to leave China and move to Hong Kong.
Back in February the theory that Covid was leaked by a lab in Wuhan, China was officially confirmed by US authorities.
The conclusion is included in an updated and classified 2021 US Energy Department study provided to the White House and senior American lawmakers.
The conclusion from the Energy Department – which oversees a network of 17 US laboratories, including areas of advanced biology – would be significant despite the fact that, as the report said, the agency made its updated judgment with “low confidence”.