Republicans in Congress are conducting “full” investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the possibility of an “accidental” leak from a Wuhan laboratory.
Senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., Wrote this week to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for documents to “assist” in their investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
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“As leaders of the Congressional Committee with jurisdiction over public health, we strongly support a full investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the possibility of an accidental lab leak,” McMorris, joined by Representatives Brett Guthrie and H. Morgan Griffith wrote.
Republicans have asked Blinken to release “unclassified documents and to declassify other documents for public release, if any, related to the claim in the ministry’s January 15, 2021 fact sheet that the Institute of Wuhan Virology (WIV) in Wuhan, China, collaborated with the Chinese military to conduct classified research, including experiments on laboratory animals. “
The fact sheet, published under the Trump administration, claimed that the WIV had collaborated on “secret projects” with the Chinese military, and claimed that “although the WIV presents itself as a civilian institution, the United States determined that the WIV had collaborated on secret publications and projects within the Chinese military “since” at least 2017 “.
Republicans noted that the WIV “has been a major focus” for the US government and the World Health Organization in their examination of the origins of COVID-19.
“The Department’s release of these documents could help refute conflicting statements that have been made regarding the possibility of a WIV lab leak,” they wrote.
Republicans were referring to comments by the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at WIV, Dr Shi Zhengli, who said at a seminar at Rutgers University in March that “all of our research is open, is transparent. “.
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Zhengli, at the time, called claims that the Wuhan lab was involved in the COVID-19 leak “not to be correct.”
Blinken last month said the coronavirus “got out of hand faster” because of China, saying Beijing “did not do the right thing” in the early stages of the pandemic.
“I think China knows that in the early stages of COVID, it did not do what it needed to do, which is, in real time, to provide access to international experts, in real time to share information, in real time to provide true transparency, ”said Blinken.
Meanwhile, in a separate investigation, Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Wrote a letter to Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), demanding more information on the “cause” of the pandemic.
“Understanding the cause of this pandemic – and ensuring that something like this does not happen again – is the most important question facing the world today,” Gallagher wrote in a letter to Fauci on Wednesday. “Given the stakes, we cannot afford to be satisfied with a limited, blind or politicized understanding of the origin of this terrible disease.”
And on the other side of Capitol Hill, the Republicans Sens. Josh Hawley and Mike Braun have introduced a bill that would require the Biden administration to declassify information related to the origins of COVID-19.
“For over a year, anyone asking about the Wuhan Institute of Virology has been called a conspiracy theorist,” Hawley said in a statement last month. “The world needs to know if this pandemic was the product of the negligence of the Wuhan laboratory, but the CCP has done everything it can to block a credible investigation.”
He added that “the Biden administration must declassify what it knows about the Wuhan laboratory and Beijing’s attempts to cover up the origin of the pandemic.”
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Braun also said that identifying the origins of COVID-19 “is vital to preventing future pandemics, and as investigations and research into the origins of the virus continue, the Biden administration should declassify information related to any potential link between biological research laboratories in Wuhan, China and the COVID-19 pandemic. “
The calls for more information come after the White House last month said it felt China had “not been transparent” in releasing its findings on the origins of COVID-19, as part of the of a report she wrote in collaboration with World Health. Organization.
The report rejected claims that COVID-19 had escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan and instead called the theory of zoonotic transmission, or transfer of infection from animals to humans, “probably to very likely.” .
The White House said the WHO China report lacked crucial information and provided only a “partial and incomplete picture” of the origin of the virus.
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Last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called on China and the WHO to allow international experts “unhindered access” to data and allow them to ask people questions about the data. field at the time of the epidemic. Psaki said US medical experts are still reviewing the report, but the White House believes it “does not hold up.”
The report calls the possibility that the virus has spread from an animal reservoir to an animal host, followed by further spread within that intermediate host which then transmits it to humans, “probably to very likely.” He calls the idea that the virus could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology “extremely unlikely.”
The report called for further investigation in all areas except the laboratory leak hypothesis.
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Even WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the research team’s assessment of whether the coronavirus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident was not ” sufficiently extensive “.
And President Biden said last month that he had not spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the origins of COVID-19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.