US officials in Wuhan warned about the dangers associated with a lab in Wuhan studying bat viruses years before the coronavirus crisis began, according to newly revealed documents.
The explosive documents obtained by The Washington Post detail the fears the officials had about the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which was reportedly researching coronavirus in bats.
On March 27, 2018, the WIV released a press statement about a visit it received from Jamison Fouss, the consul general in Wuhan, and Rick Switzer, the US embassy’s counselor of environment, science, technology and health. It was reportedly not the first time US officials visited the lab – where they were so concerned with safety and management problems that they sent two diplomatic cables, also known as a diplomatic telegram, to Washington, according to Post columnist Josh Rogin.
Rogin claims to have obtained the first cable, which includes a warning about the lab’s research on bat coronaviruses and their ability to jump to humans.
‘During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,’ according to the cable sent on January 19, 2018.
The officials went on to urge the US to give the Wuhan lab additional support because the research was both important and dangerous, although the lab was reportedly already being assisted by multiple US organizations.
‘Most importantly, the researrchers also showed that various SARS-like coronaviruses can interact with ACE2, the human receptor identified for SARS-coronavirus. This finding strongly suggests that SARS-like coronaviruses from bats can be transmitted to humans to cause SARS-like diseases,’ the cable states, according to Rogin.
‘From a public health perspective, this makes the continued surveillance of SARS-like coronaviruses in bats and study of the animal-human interface critical to future emerging coronavirus outbreak prediction and prevention.’
No additional assistance to the labs was ever provided, despite the urgent and alarming call for action.
‘The cable was a warning shot. They were begging people to pay attention to what was going on,’ an unnamed US official told The Post.
China has not been straightforward about the origins of the new virus, which was first discovered in Wuhan. China initially claimed the outbreak began in a seafood market, but many of the original cases were found to have not been connected to the market. Many scientists have agreed that the virus likely came from animals, but no consensus has been reached.
US intelligence officials reportedly believe the Chinese government lied about the scale of coronavirus, which they think killed more than 40,000 people in China, rather than the official death toll of just over 3,300
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