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GOP to release report on potential for 'lab leak' and 'lab manipulation' of COVID in Wuhan lab

Wuhan's National Biosafety Lab wanted to do major renovations to its air safety and waste treatment systems despite being operational for less than two years.

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Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
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With the deadline for Biden's intelligence community review into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic only weeks away, congressional Republicans are set to release a report arguing that the virus may have been manipulated by researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology before it was accidentally released into the public at large.

Wuhan's National Biosafety Lab wanted to do major renovations to its air safety and waste treatment systems despite being operational for less than two years.

The Wuhan National Biosafety Lab requested bids for major renovations to air safety and waste treatment systems in facilities that had been operational for less than two years, just months before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus according to a congressional report focusing on the virus’s origins, according to Fox News.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee's Republican staff said, "Such a significant renovation so soon after the facility began operation appears unusual." The projects for air disinfection, hazardous waste and central air conditioning systems "all raise questions about how well these systems were functioning in the months prior to the outbreak of COVID-19."

During the Trump era, the State Department published a declassified report days before leaving office detailing how the virus could have leaked from a lab. Republicans are set to release their report arguing that researchers in Wuhan could have genetically altered the virus and that "the preponderance of evidence suggests SARS-CoV-2 was accidentally released from a Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory."

The report is comprised of project announcements published on the Chinese government's procurement website, interviews with former administration officials and scientists, as well as research papers and international press reports to augment other open-source data.

According to the timeline laid out by the Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee the virus escaped the Wuhan Institute of Virology "sometime prior to September 12, 2019." That same day, Wuhan University, less than a mile from the lab, issued a notice for laboratory inspections.  Shortly thereafter, the WIV's viral sequence database disappeared from the internet.

That evening, the WIV published announced a request for bids for "security services" at the lab "to include gatekeepers, guards, video surveillance, security patrols, and people to handle the 'registration and reception of foreign personnel,'" according to the report. The report also claims that Major General Chen Wei, an expert in biological and chemical weapon defenses, took control of the Wuhan Institute's biosafety level-4 lab.

The report said that mapping data suggested employees at the lab likely used the Wuhan shuttle bus and city metro for their commute and spread the virus throughout the city. Satellite imagery of the city in September and October 2019 displayed a sharp increase in hospital visits and internet searches for coronavirus symptoms.

Wuhan hosted the 2019 Military World Games in October, which drew thousands of military personnel to compete in Olympic-style events. However, multiple International press reports said events were conducted without fans and that Wuhan was a "ghost town."  Additionally, athletes from multiple countries complained of coronavirus-like symptoms. Four countries that sent athletes have confirmed the virus in November and December of 2019, before the outbreak became public, according to the report.

The Chinese government has become more aggressive in pushing back on calls to investigate the lab-leak theory, even as the evidence mounts and the theory has gained traction internationally with more calls from scientific experts to investigate the possibility. This, only weeks ahead of President Joe Biden's deadline for the intelligence community's report on the review into the origins of the pandemic.

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