The COVID-19 testing czar for former President Donald Trump says the “most likely” origin for the pandemic was an accidental escape from a Wuhan lab, testifying Tuesday as one of four expert witnesses during a House Republican effort to get to the bottom of how the coronavirus emerged.
Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of health and a member of Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, said: “I assess that the most likely origin was an accidental infection of laboratory personnel from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with secondary transmission to the local population and subsequent spread to hundreds of millions of people around the world.”
Giroir, a former four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, spoke Tuesday as part of a panel organized by House Republicans on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
“There is now an increasing body of circumstantial evidence pointing to a lab leak origin of the virus,” Giroir said. “The bottom line is: I believe it’s just too much of a coincidence that a worldwide pandemic caused by a novel bat coronavirus that cannot be found in nature started just a few miles away from a secretive laboratory doing potentially dangerous research on bat coronaviruses. Sometimes, the most obvious explanation is indeed the correct one.”
A State Department fact sheet released in January contended Wuhan lab researchers “conducted experiments involving the bat coronavirus identified by Wuhan virologists in January 2020 as its closest sample to COVID-19″ and that the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” The fact sheet also asserted the lab “engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military” and that lab workers became sick with coronavirus-like symptoms in autumn 2019.
The National Institutes of Health’s RePORTER website said the agency provided $15.2 million to Peter Daszak’s New York-based EcoHealth Alliance over the years, with $3.74 million toward understanding bat coronavirus emergence. Daszak, a key member of the World Health Organization-China joint study team earlier this year, maintained a working relationship with Wuhan lab “bat lady” Shi Zhengli, sending at least $600,000 in NIH funding for bat coronavirus research.
Giroir said: “It is essential that Congress provides leadership for a comprehensive, transparent, and unbiased investigation to determine the most likely origin of the virus, whether the NIH funded, directly or indirectly, or approved of, explicitly or tacitly, potentially dangerous research within the Wuhan lab, and what the U.S. can do to minimize the possibility of future pandemics and enable rapid global containment of any suspicious infectious outbreak.”
He added that the WHO couldn't be relied upon for an investigation because it has no authority to do anything in China without direct approval from the Communist Party.
The Biden administration and the United States’s allies are largely pinning hopes for a second COVID-19 origins investigation in China on the WHO, despite the WHO-China joint study team’s visit to Wuhan earlier this year that essentially dismissed the lab leak hypothesis.
David Asher, who led the Trump State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance investigation into COVID-19’s origins, said China should be punished for its role in the pandemic.
“We should stop funding the Chinese Communist research into biology. This dangerous gain-of-function collaboration with China has to end … We’ve gotta enforce our treaty compliance, that should be a focus across the board,” Asher said, adding, “Sanctions — China needs to be coerced. They need to feel the pain.”
Asher added: “Whether the Chinese did this deliberately or not in terms of creating this pathogen — I think the chances are they were working on it and it was funded by the military, I’m very confident of that — but whether they released it or not deliberately or just had an accident, I think the answer is they probably had an accident, but that doesn’t matter, because they allowed it to be weaponized in the wake of its release.”
The State Department concluded in April that China has “engaged in activities with dual-use applications, which raise concerns regarding its compliance with Article I of the Biological Weapons Convention” and that “the United States does not have sufficient information to determine whether China eliminated its assessed historical biological warfare program, as required under Article II of the Convention.”
Asher said: “What we found truly disturbed us: that the Chinese were working on a military-supported program, which they did not declare under the Biological Weapons Convention — so they lied. It involved coronaviruses, which they said they weren’t working on at the Wuhan institute.”
The former State Department official called for a 9/11-like commission to investigate COVID-19's origins.
Dr. Steven Quay and Richard Muller, scientists who earlier this month wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal which contended that “the most compelling reason to favor the lab leak hypothesis is firmly based in science,” also testified on Tuesday.
Quay, the founder of Atossa Therapeutics, said Tuesday: “I believe the evidence conclusively establishes that the COVID pandemic was not a natural process but instead came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and that it has the fingerprints of genetic manipulation through a process called ‘gain-of-function’ research.”
Muller, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, said: “Some people say we will never know, not until China confesses or unless there is a whistleblower.”
“Well, we have a whistleblower. It was the virus itself. it came here, it came out of China, it came to us, and it carried with it genetic information.”
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