US intelligence found that three researchers at a Wuhan laboratory became so sick just before the coronavirus pandemic began that they were hospitalised, a report says.
The Trump administration and Republicans have pushed the “lab leak” theory of the virus escaping China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology throughout the pandemic.
Current and former officials familiar have expressed differing opinions on the evidence of the November 2019 sickness of the lab researchers, according to The Wall Street Journal.
One official said that the intelligence came from an international partner of the US, but that it needed further investigation.
But another person told the newspaper that the intelligence was stronger than that.
“The information that we had coming from the various sources was of exquisite quality. It was very precise. What it didn’t tell you was exactly why they got sick,” said the insider.
Experts say that November 2019 is approximately when the virus began infecting people in Wuhan, while the Chinese government says the first confirmed case was on 8 December 2019.
The Wuhan Institute, which significantly carries out research on coronaviruses in bats, has not made public its data, lab records or safety logs in the wake of the global pandemic.
The Chinese government has strongly denied that the virus escaped from one of its labs and has attacked theory, even claiming it came from a US laboratory.
Joe Biden has said that his White House fully supports a World Health Organization probe into the breakout of the virus, which has now killed more than 589,000 people in the United States.
The report comes after Dr Anthony Fauci said he was “not convinced” that Covid-19 developed naturally and called for a full investigation.
PolitiFact’s Katie Sanders asked Dr Fauci if he was “still confident that it developed naturally” during a “United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact Checking” event.
“No, actually. I am not convinced about that, I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,” he said.
Dr Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, made the comments earlier this month but they were largely unreported at the time.
“Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out,” he added.
“So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favour of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.”
The Biden administration declined to comment on the report but said all credible theories should be investigated.
“We continue to have serious questions about the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its origins within the Peoples Republic of China,” a National Security Council spokesperson told The Independent.
“The world needs to understand how this pandemic originated so that we can better prepare our governments, our people, and our public health institutions for future health crises.
“That’s why we are working within the WHO and with other Member States to support a science-based and expert-driven evaluation of the pandemic’s origins that is free from interference or politicisation.
“We’re not going to make pronouncements that prejudge an ongoing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV-2, but we’ve been clear that sound and technically credible theories should be thoroughly evaluated by international experts.”