In the months preceding the first known cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, multiple air ventilation systems within the Wuhan Institute of Virology were not functioning properly and required renovation, lending further credence to the theory that lab workers were infected with the virus and inadvertently spread it throughout the city.
The discovery was included in an an 84-page memo released Monday by Republicans on the the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an addendum to a previous report on COVID’s origins. The revelation suggests the virus may have emerged earlier than previously thought, reorienting the chronology of COVID’s genesis, lending credence to the lab-leak hypothesis, and further implicating China in an orchestrated cover up.
In the fall of 2019, while WIV researchers were conducting gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses, multiple requests for lab maintenance were outstanding, including repair for an “environmental air disinfection system” and “hazardous waste treatment system.” A notice for laboratory inspection was issued in September 2019.
Shortly after the WIV took its public virus database off the internet in September 2019, the lab announced a contract competition to renovate its air conditioning system for approximately $606 million. The announcement was later redacted from the Chinese Ministry of Finance website, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin first noted.
“A defective hazardous waste treatment system and central air conditioning system would increase the likelihood of a lab employee (or several) becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, as viral particles would be more likely to remain in the air for longer periods of time,” the memo read.
This chain of events led the House Foreign Affairs Republicans to conclude that the virus leaked during the month of September, rather than November 2019, when China claims it identified its first COVID case. China revised its first known COVID case from December to November, 2019 after an the Wall Street Journal reported on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) were hospitalized in November 2019 with symptoms associated with COVID.
“Based on the material collected and analyzed by the Committee Minority Staff, the preponderance of evidence suggests SARS-CoV-2 was accidentally released from a Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory sometime prior to September 12, 2019,” the report notes.
In a statement attached to the memo, ranking Republican representative Michael McCaul wrote:
We also now know the head of the Chinese CDC and the director of the WIV’s BSL-4 lab publicly expressed concerns about safety at PRC labs in the summer of 2019. It is our belief the virus leaked sometime in late August or early September 2019. When they realized what happened, Chinese Communist Party officials and scientists at the WIV began frantically covering up the leak, including taking their virus database offline in the middle of the night and requesting more than $1 million for additional security.
Later in the memo, the Republican lawmakers argued that once infected thanks to the poor air circulation in the lab, scientists traveled on a shuttle provided by the WIV between points in Wuhan, spreading the virus throughout the city.