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Communist China Must Answer

June 22, 2021
Weekly Columns

As the world continues to recover from the destruction caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is high time that answers regarding the mystery of its origin are uncovered and shared with the public. Most urgently, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must answer for the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a lab that studied coronaviruses in Wuhan, China. Moreover, the CCP must be held accountable for the initial cover-up that allowed this virus to spread around the world and claim millions of lives.

Although the idea of a lab leak causing the pandemic was dismissed for several months as a conspiracy theory, it has increasingly become a more feasible scenario in recent days. Specifically, the recent revelation that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sought hospital treatment for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in late 2019 has caused many to wonder about the likelihood of a lab leak. While it is certainly possible that their symptoms were caused by other illnesses, this discovery sparks serious questions about what the lab was working on and where the virus originated.

It is no secret that WIV researchers have for years been studying and engineering coronaviruses. In fact, as recently as 2012, they had samples of coronaviruses closely resembling SARS from Chinese rufous horseshoe bats. By 2015, through gain-of-function research, or research that alters an organism or disease that increases transmissibility, scientists in the Wuhan-based lab were reportedly engineering a virus from these bats capable of infecting primary human airway cells. Out of concern for safety, it is worth nothing that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a moratorium on funding for this sort of research in 2014.

In 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing sent science diplomats to WIV and later warned that they observed numerous safety and management weaknesses there, including “a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.” Most alarmingly, these warnings in their findings also included notices that work on bat coronaviruses posed a pandemic risk.

Even the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and expert virologist, Dr. Robert Redfield, has said he believes the most likely origin of the COVID-19 virus was the result of a lab leak. During a recent televised interview on Fox News, Dr. Redfield explained that the human-to-human spread of the virus contradicted the behavior of other deadly coronaviruses with similar profiles. For example, SARS and MERS first reached humans through animal contact but spread at a much slower pace, and the origins of both viruses were found rather quickly. However, it has been at least 18 months since COVID-19 began to become active and present in the world, yet there are still no clear answers how it happened.

Aside from the concerns that the virus was leaked from a lab, there are also concerns about how the World Health Organization (WHO) handled what was known and when. First, WHO did not require China to adhere to treaty agreements on global health requirements that the rest of the world complies with. Moreover, the organization failed to report the spread of the virus initially and allowed China to select the group of scientists that could come and investigate what was spreading throughout the country. It is worth noting that American scientists were not invited to provide expert support.

Indeed, these actions are inconsistent with WHO’s mission to keep the world safe and healthy. And I am disappointed that before a thorough investigation has been either initiated or completed, President Joe Biden recommended nearly $124 million in WHO funding in his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal. While protecting public health is an issue that requires global cooperation and collaboration, it is vital that we ensure that WHO is still a trustworthy organization and transparent public health partner.

In response to the lack of answers and as COVID variants become a greater concern, I recently sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with more than 200 House Republicans, urging her to direct committee chairs to investigate the origins of COVID-19. Despite our insistence as well as the rising concerns of Americans across the country, Speaker Pelosi and Democrats continue to deny hearings and investigations on the topic. At the same time, Big Tech companies continue to censor social media posts about it while the media attacks those looking for answers.

To be clear, even though we still do not know for certain the origins of COVID-19, we do know that both CCP and WHO officials concealed and played down the potential risk of the disease, withheld information from the public, failed to take precautions and delayed notifying global health partners. Indeed, world leaders must hold both accountable for their actions and work together to implement safeguards to keep another pandemic of this scale from happening. And the United States should be leading the charge.