It contradicted claims by a senior researcher from the facility who said there were no infections among the staff scientists.
"The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses. This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli's public claim that there was 'zero infection' among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses," the fact sheet stated.
The fact sheet also noted that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) "has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the Covid-19 pandemic’s origin, choosing instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation."
Accidental viral outbreaks aren’t new in China, including the 2004 SARS outbreak in Beijing that originated in a lab.
All the State Department wants is transparency. (Related: Chinese authorities hid the fact that medical staff in coronavirus-hit city were infected.)
"The CCP has prevented independent journalists, investigators and global health authorities from interviewing researchers at the WIV, including those who were ill in the fall of 2019. Any credible inquiry into the origin of the virus must include interviews with these researchers and a full accounting of their previously unreported illness," the State Department said.
As expected, the Chinese quickly deflected the blame.
Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, said on Monday, Jan. 18, the U.S. government should invite experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) to "conduct origin-tracing" in the U.S., implying that the country may be the source of the virus.
She also denied the fact sheet's claims and insisted that China was cooperating with virus origin investigations.
A team of WHO experts arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 14. The experts are waiting for their mandatory quarantine period to end before they can start work on the ground to investigate the origin of the virus.
In early 2020, U.S. experts were continually denied access to Wuhan to conduct research.
The Chinese regime rarely admits its own mistakes. When pushed into a corner, the Chinese use the blame game as its way out.
In March 2020, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, tweeted that the U.S. military "brought the epidemic to Wuhan."
Quoting Alexander Kekulé, director of the Institute for Biosecurity Research in Germany, Chinese state-run media claimed that the virus spreading around the world was "a kind of variant mutating in north Italy."
Kekulé disproved the claim in an email interview with Indian newspaper Hindustan Times, saying that his words were taken out of context from his book and his interview with German television.
"The origin of the virus in China is described in detail in my book, and also the Chinese efforts to conceal the magnitude of the outbreak at the beginning. I never stated that the virus originally came from Italy, this is pure propaganda," Kekulé wrote to the Indian outlet.
India wasn't spared from China's blame game. China’s state-run media Global Times published a story on Nov. 29 last year saying that the earliest human-to-human transmission occurred in the "Indian subcontinent," several months before the outbreak in Wuhan. The story quoted a Chinese study titled "The early cryptic transmission and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in human hosts." It was conducted by three researchers, one of them affiliated with the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The study, which first appeared on the research paper website SSRN in November 2020, was later retracted.
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