EXCLUSIVE: There is increasing confidence that COVID-19 likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory not as a bioweapon, but as part of China’s effort to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details of early actions by China’s government and seen relevant materials tell Fox News.
This may be the “costliest government coverup of all time,” one of the sources said.
The sources believe the initial transmission of the virus was bat-to-human, and that “patient zero” worked at the laboratory, then went into the population in Wuhan.
The “increasing confidence” comes from classified and open-source documents and evidence, the sources said. Fox News has requested to see the evidence directly.
Asked by Fox News’ John Roberts about the reporting, President Trump remarked at Wednesday’s coronavirus press briefing, “More and more we’re hearing the story…we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation.”
Documents detail early efforts by doctors at the lab and early efforts at containment. The Wuhan wet market initially identified as a possible point of origin never sold bats, and the sources tell Fox News that blaming the wet market was an effort by China to deflect blame from the laboratory, along with the country’s propaganda efforts targeting the U.S. and Italy.
U.S. Embassy officials warned in January 2018 about inadequate safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab and passed on information about scientists conducting risky research on coronavirus from bats, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Responding to the report, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday afternoon: “It should be no surprise to you that we have taken a keen interest in that and we’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that. I would just say at this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural, but we don’t know for certain.”
“Even today, I see them withholding information and I think we need to do more to continue to press them to share,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday, referring to China. Esper added that he wouldn’t speak to “intelligence reporting,” but that “most people believe it began naturally — it was organic, if you will. I think in due course, once we get through the pandemic we’re in right now, there’ll be time to look back and really ascertain what happened and make sure we have a better understanding so we can prevent this in the future.”
Speaking to “The Story,” also on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarked: “What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There is still lots to learn. The United States government is working diligently to figure it out.”
Americans were originally helping train the Chinese in a program called PREVENT well before the Chinese started working on this virus. The French government helped the Chinese set up the Wuhan lab.
China “100 percent” suppressed data and changed data, the sources tell Fox News. Samples were destroyed, contaminated areas scrubbed, some early reports erased, and academic articles stifled.
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