‘China’s to Blame’ Regardless of How COVID-19 Came About, Senator Says

Eva Fu
By Eva Fu
June 19, 2024Politics
‘China’s to Blame’ Regardless of How COVID-19 Came About, Senator Says
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) departs from a luncheon at the National Republican Senatorial Committee building in Washington on June 13, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The blame is on the Chinese regime no matter how COVID-19 arose, said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

“Whether it was from a wet market, or the Wuhan lab, China’s to blame. Both those things were in China,” he said at a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing examining evidence on the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on June 18.

“They should take responsibility for it and should have opened themselves up to complete disclosure.”

Since the virus emerged from China’s Wuhan city and ballooned into a global pandemic, Beijing has repeatedly deflected responsibility, demanding critics look elsewhere around the world for possible sources of the disease.

It has meanwhile muffled whistleblowers and refused to hand full data to outside investigators, including experts of the World Health Organization, even as it proclaims itself “open and transparent” on the origins issue.

The question remains whether the virus existed in Wuhan before the pandemic broke out, and for how long.

“It’s just one of the many things that we’re missing that we would like to get from the Chinese government,” said Dr. Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University.

In terms of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the center of lab leak suspicions, outside experts are still hoping to review records about the research the lab is conducting, medical surveillance on the facility’s researchers, and maintenance operations for the biocontainment equipment, to determine whether there were signs of accidents or the virus’s laboratory escape.

“The Chinese government has chosen to be opaque about what they have and what they know, in a way that has frustrated people involved with looking at this in terms of assessing both the natural zoonotic spillover pathway and also looking at the lab accident pathway,” said Gregory Koblentz, director of the biodefense graduate program at George Mason University.

Both Dr. Garry and Mr. Koblentz lean in favor of a natural origins theory. Dr. Garry was one of the co-authors of a Nature article titled “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” which plays down the likelihood that the virus originated in a lab.

Dr. Steven Quay, founder of the clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics, pointed to circumstantial evidence such as the Wuhan lab’s links to the military, the takedown of the lab’s virus sequence database in September 2019, and the shipment of vials of dangerous pathogens to the lab prior to the outbreak as factors that raised his suspicion.

The COVID-19 virus genome contains unique features such as a furin cleavage site in its spike protein that has been linked to the virus’ high infectivity. Some U.S. scientists had proposed to experiment with this feature on coronavirus genomes in 2018 in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

NTD Photo
A man crosses an empty highway in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on Feb. 3, 2020. (Getty Images)

Dr. Quay also noted the proteins of opening reading frame 8 in the SARS-CoV-2 genome, an accessory protein that researchers say functions to block one’s body from presenting symptoms of infection, which he described as “highly unusual” and “highly synthetic.”

“The probability that SARS-2 came from nature, based on these features, is one in a billion,” he said.

With no definitive evidence on the virus’s origin, lawmakers and witnesses at the hearing agree that there should be stricter guardrails over gain-of-function research, or the manipulation of a pathogen that can enhance its pandemic potential.

“In this category of research, which is the most significant in terms of consequences, and potentially existential risk, there is almost no regulation with force of law,” said Dr. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University. “That needs to change.”

Regarding accountability, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) called for a “9/11-style commission” to probe the issue.

“There’s too many bright lights here. There’s too many cameras, it’s too political,” he told NTD, a sister outlet of The Epoch Times. “We need to get this outside of Washington, D.C., and investigate this.

“The most important thing we’re doing is trying to prevent this from happening again.”

From The Epoch Times