OAN’s Brooke Mallory
12:14 PM – Monday, June 19, 2023
Scientists working on novel coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were, in fact, the first individuals to ever contract COVID-19, according to a new report.
An investigation published in the Substack Periodical Public by journalists Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi, claimed that the first infected scientists were Ben Hu, Ping Yu, and Yan Zhu, who were all researching SARS-like viruses at the institute.
When the three scientists became ill in the fall of 2019, they were conducting gain-of-function experiments with the virus, which increased its infectiousness and made pathogens stronger in order to better understand their dangers, according to multiple U.S. government officials.
The new information comes around four months after FBI Director Christopher Wray claimed that the COVID-19 virus responsible for millions of fatalities likely began from an unintentional breakout.
“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan, China,” Wray said in an interview with Bret Baier.
Hu and Yu, two of the highlighted scientists, co-authored a study in 2019 regarding the genetic history of SARS-related coronaviruses in bats that they researched across China.
Hu worked with virologist Shi Zhengli, dubbed “the bat woman of China” for her work on SARS-like coronaviruses of bat origin. Since the COVID-19 pandemic was traced back to Wuhan, Zhengli has now been under intensive investigation.
“Ben Hu is essentially the next Shi Zhengli,” said Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “He was her star pupil. He had been making chimeric SARS-like viruses and testing them in humanized mice. If I had to guess who would be doing this risky virus research and most at risk of getting accidentally infected, it would be him.”
According to the newsletter, a 2017 video released by Chinese state-run media showed Hu witnessing a lab worker handle sensitive material while neither of them was wearing any safety gear.
“If they were worried about being infected in the field, they would need full body suits with no gaps,” said Chan, who co-authored the book “Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19.”
She went on to say that scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology carried out their study at a lower biohazard safety level of BSL-2, saying “we now know that the pandemic virus is even capable of escaping from a BSL-3 lab and infecting fully vaccinated young lab workers.”
The U.S. State Department has already recognized that the COVID outbreak could have very well been caused by a lab leak.
“The US government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the [Wuhan Institute of Virology] became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses,” the department stated in a now-archived publication posted in January 2021.
In late February, the Department of Energy determined, with what they stated as “low confidence,” that the pandemic virus originated in the Chinese laboratory.
However, Dr. Shi has frequently disputed that her or her students’ research triggered the disastrous epidemic as a result of a lab leak.
In a June 2021 interview with the New York Times, she denied reports that some of her colleagues were ill with COVID-19-like symptoms prior to the pandemic and also claimed that her lab had no source of the strain that triggered the pandemic.
“I don’t know how the world has come to this—constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist,” she said over text.
China has also criticized the lab-leak idea, accusing the FBI of “politicizing” the subject.
The other alternate origin explanation, which was that the virus was spread from animals to humans at one of Wuhan’s many animal markets, now seems very unlikely.
Following the FBI director’s remarks, the White House reiterated that there is still no official “consensus” on the origins of COVID-19. Many opponents of the Biden administration, however, believe that the White House is highly protective of China and that they have a close relationship, so it would be uncharacteristic of them to throw the nation “under the bus.”
The Chinese government has consistently refused to allow independent investigators probe allegations that COVID-19 originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, fueling suspicion and worldwide calls for more transparency.
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