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New Revelations Raise Questions on What China Knew About COVID-19 Before Public Disclosure

China, home to three BSL-4 labs and one that’s planned, has been fighting allegations that the pandemic started because of a leak at that Wuhan lab for years now. Photographer: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo
China, home to three BSL-4 labs and one that’s planned, has been fighting allegations that the pandemic started because of a leak at that Wuhan lab for years now. Photographer: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

By: Jason Cohen, Daily Caller News Foundation

Chinese laboratory scientists discovered and charted the virus responsible for COVID-19 in late 2019, preceding Beijing’s public release of information by weeks, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A Chinese lab researcher in Beijing submitted an almost entire genetic sequence of the virus structure to a United States government-managed server on December 28, 2019, records acquired from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and evaluated by the WSJ show. However, China did not disclose the virus’ sequence with the World Health Organization (WHO) until January 11, 2020.

The revelation raises fresh inquiries into China’s knowledge during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the WSJ.

It indicates the U.S. “cannot trust any of the so-called ‘facts’ or data provided by the [Chinese Communist Party] and calls into serious question the legitimacy of any scientific theories based on such information,” Republican Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the committee, told the WSJ.

The committee received the documents following its threat to subpoena the HHS, according to the WSJ.

The additional two weeks might have been pivotal in aiding the worldwide medical community in understanding the transmission of COVID-19, devising countermeasures and initiating vaccine development, experts told the WSJ. Scientists and governments around the globe were rapidly trying to comprehend the unknown disease at the time, which was later dubbed COVID-19.

It “underscores how cautious we have to be about the accuracy of the information that the Chinese government has released,” Jesse Bloom, a virologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center who has seen the documents and the gene sequence, told the WSJ. “It’s important to keep in mind how little we know.”

“This [database] submission shows that in fact, at least by Dec. 28, 2019, scientists within China did know this pneumonia was being caused” by a new coronavirus, Bloom added, according to the WSJ.

Chinese authorities continued during this time period to characterize the Wuhan outbreak as a viral pneumonia “of unknown cause,” and did not yet shut down the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was associated with the first COVID-19 outbreaks, the WSJ reported.

“Guided by a people-first and life-first philosophy, China has kept refining our COVID response based on science to make it more targeted,” a Chinese Embassy spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “China’s COVID response policies are science-based, effective, and consistent with China’s national realities. They can stand the test of history.”

Dr. Lili Ren from the Beijing-based Institute of Pathogen Biology was the Chinese researcher who uploaded the virus sequence to the GenBank, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) database, according to the WSJ. It was not publicly released and was eliminated from GenBank on January 16, 2020 following the NIH requesting additional information.

The WHO called out the CCP in a January 2023 statement for its lack of transparency about the COVID-19 outbreak in China after a meeting between officials, stating that there’s a “critical need for and importance of additional analysis as well as sharing of sequence data.”

HHS, the WHO, NIH and Ren did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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