CHINA NIXES REPORT THAT WUHAN LAB STAFFERS FELL ILL IN NOVEMBER 2019
China has dismissed a US media report that three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in November 2019 as false even as earlier reports from doctors in the city noted an uptick in pneumonia-like cases a month earlier.
Three researchers at the lab became ill enough to seek hospital care in November 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing a US intelligence report, Helen Corbett and Joern Petring reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
This is a "complete lie," Chinese state newspaper Global Times quoted the head of the Wuhan institute, Yuan Zhiming, as saying on Monday. Yet, Chinese authorities first denied the COVID-19 outbreak only to confirm the same in early 2020, when thousands had already died and the virus had spread globally.
Critics have said China actually confirms everything it denies. The intelligence document goes further in disclosing the number of researchers, the timing of their illness and their hospital visits.
The previously undisclosed report could fuel calls for a deeper probe into the theory that the coronavirus escaped from the Chinese lab, though a World Health Organization (WHO) group of experts said earlier this year it was "extremely unlikely."
The WSJ report came on the eve of a WHO meeting expected to address the next phase of investigation into the pandemic's origins. A US State Department fact sheet issued during Donald Trump's final days in office in January said several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became ill in autumn 2019 with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.