The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic has announced that it will hold its first hearing on the origins of COVID-19 on March 8.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), said in a March 1 statement announcing the hearing that Americans “deserve real answers” on the origins of the virus, having suffered through the pandemic and the government policies related to it.
“This investigation must begin with where and how this virus came about so that we can attempt to ‘predict, prepare, protect, or prevent’ it from happening again,” he said.
“Government scientists and government funded researchers have so far been less-than-forthcoming in their knowledge and actions, including work with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and potential pandemic pathogens,” he added, without mentioning names.
The announcement comes as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is facing renewed scrutiny that its Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) could be the origin site of the virus.
‘Potential Lab Incident’
According to a Wall Street Journal article published on Feb. 26, a classified intelligence report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) concluded that a laboratory leak was “likely,” though the judgment was made with “low confidence.”
The report’s conclusion was shared by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who told Fox News the same day that the origins “are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.”
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which houses a bio-safety level 4 lab, is located a short distance from a local wet market, where clusters of infection cases were first reported in late 2019.
The Chinese regime has denied that the virus origin was linked to the WIV and has thrown its weight behind a natural zoonotic hypothesis—that the virus was transmitted to humans from an animal host.
The March hearing will feature several witnesses, including Dr. Robert Redfield, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Dr. Jamie Metzl, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; and Nicholas Wade, former editor for Nature and Science journals and The New York Times.
“We can’t accept more years of stonewalling; the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is committed to conducting a proper investigation that the American people have demanded,” Wenstrup added.
“We look forward to hearing from our esteemed witnesses next week about their research on this topic.”
In early February, Wenstrup and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) sent several letters seeking information on COVID-19 from Dr. Anthony Fauci; Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance; Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence; Dr. Francis Collins, acting science adviser to President Joe Biden; and Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The two lawmakers also asked Fauci, Daszak, and Collins to sit for transcribed interviews.
“Evidence continues to mount pointing to the virus leaking from an unsecure lab in Wuhan,” Comer said in a statement accompanying the letters. “We know EcoHealth Alliance acted as a middleman, improperly funneling thousands of taxpayer dollars to the Wuhan lab to conduct risky gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses which could have started the pandemic.”
In 2021, documents obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act showed that EcoHealth Alliance directed a portion of grant money it received from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to the WIV for research, including altering bat coronaviruses that were deemed likely to infect humans.
In September 2018, Daszak said that EcoHealth was a recipient of CCP money while taking part in a conference sponsored by Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, the international arm of China’s state broadcaster CCTV.
Wenstrup and Comer requested more information on COVID-19 origins on Feb. 27, when they sent letters to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Wray.
On March 1, the Senate passed unanimously a bill (S.619) that would require the director of National Intelligence to declassify “any and all information relating to potential links” between the WIV and the origins of COVID-19.
WIV Researchers Who Became Sick
The names of WIV researchers who fell ill in the autumn of 2019, as well as their symptoms and their roles in the institute, would be part of the information required by the bill to be declassified.
In January 2021, the State Department under the Trump administration first revealed that there were several sick WIV researchers before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses,” the fact sheet reads.
It adds, “This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was ‘zero infection’ among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses.
From The Epoch Times