DIPLOMATS warned Washington of risky coronavirus experiments in a Wuhan lab two years before the outbreak but no one listened, leaked cables have revealed.
Officials at the Beijing Embassy in late 2017 and early 2018 issued alerts to Washington that a new virus had been discovered in a Chinese laboratory that was dangerously short-staffed.
? Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates…
Top health and science officials from the U.S. Embassy originally found out about the lab when they attended a conference in the Chinese capital.
Here they saw a presentation on a new study put out by a group of Chinese scientists, including several from Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), in conjunction with the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The Chinese researchers had found a population of bats from caves in Yunnan province that gave them insight into how SARS coronaviruses originated and spread.
Scientists had also discovered three new viruses that had a unique characteristic.
They contained a "spike protein" that was particularly good at grabbing onto a specific receptor in human lung cells which was what Covid-19 does.
Three teams of US experts then went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology where they met scientists, among them Shi Zhengli, who often referred to as the "batwoman" because of her huge experience studying bat coronaviruses.
But when they sat down with the scientists they were shocked to find the lab did not have enough properly trained technicians to safely operate it.
The cable was a warning shot… they were begging people to pay attention to what was going on
A cable was sent to Washington about a particularly dangerous group of viruses being studied in a lab with genuine safety problems.
But the alert appeared to have fallen on deaf years and has come to light after being leaked to the Washington Post — by which time it was years to late.
One US official told the newspaper: "The cable was a warning shot.
"They were begging people to pay attention to what was going on."
One of the cable writers told Post reporter John Rogin: "We were trying to warn that that lab was a serious danger.
"I have to admit, I thought it would be maybe a SARS-like outbreak again.
"If I knew it would turn out to be the greatest pandemic in human history, I would have made a bigger stink about it."
New docs have also revealed scientists in Wuhan fell ill with Covid-like symptoms in late 2019 — months before the pandemic began to ravage the world.
The lead investigator on the World Health Organisation team investigating the origins of the pandemic has admitted the lab leak theory is "definitely NOT off the table".
Dr Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO team in Wuhan, said they didn't get "hard facts or detailed data" from the Chinese lab at the centre of a storm over the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
Embarek, an expert on animal diseases and food safety, stressed he was skeptical of the theory that the virus emerged from WIV — but admitted it was still a possibility.
The WIV is known to have been experimenting with bat coronaviruses and creating infectious hybrid strains for tests – and is located just a stone's throw from where the virus first emerged in December 2019.
The WHO team visited the lab as part of their mission — which was tightly controlled and stage-managed by China.
Accusations of a cover-up by the Chinese government have been repeatedly dismissed by Beijing.
Source: Read Full Article