Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday it is in China’s best interest to provide the international community full access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to properly investigate whether the lab had any connection with the outbreak of COVID-19.
“At the end of the day it’s profoundly in China’s interest to do this as well, because, look, it suffered too in the outbreak of this pandemic,” Blinken told “Axios on HBO” on Sunday. “It presumably has an interest as well, especially if it purports to be a responsible international actor, to do everything it can to provide all the information it has to make sure we can hopefully prevent this from happening again.”
“We have to get to the bottom of what happened. There’s accountability, but from my perspective the most important thing, and the most important reason we have to get to the bottom of this, is that’s the only way we’re going to be able to prevent the next pandemic, or at least do a better job in mitigating it,” Blinken added. “What the government didn’t do in the early days and still hasn’t done is given us the transparency we need, the international community — access for inspectors and experts, the sharing of information in real-time. That has to happen.”
Blinken did not say if the Biden administration was prepared to levy sanctions on China if they continue to stonewall international access to the lab when asked by Axios’ Mike Allen.
China has stonewalled the international community’s ability to properly investigate the Wuhan Institute of Virology since the start of the pandemic.
China was granted veto power over the scientists who were allowed to participate in the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 origins investigation in early 2021. The only American scientist allowed to participate in the WHO’s probe, Dr. Peter Daszak, had worked closely with the Wuhan Institute of Virology for over a decade prior to the onset of the pandemic.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology removed public databases in September 2019 that contained information on at least 16,000 virus samples it had studied prior to the pandemic, but WHO investigators didn’t even ask to review the data because Daszak personally vouched for the lab. (RELATED: US Researcher With Chinese Ties Admits He Convinced WHO Team That Missing Wuhan Lab Data Was Irrelevant)
Also during the early stages of the pandemic, China instituted tight control over any COVID-19 research findings. The Chinese Communist Party implemented policies that required scientists to receive its approval before publishing any research results on the virus, Nature reported in April 2020.
And in May 2020, China confirmed that it had authorized laboratories to destroy early samples of the virus that causes COVID-19 for “biosafety reasons.”
A State Department memo issued during the final days of former President Donald Trump’s administration said the Wuhan Institute of Virology was not being transparent about its record of studying viruses similar to COVID-19. The memo also said the federal government had reason to believe that several researchers at the Wuhan lab became sick with COVID-like symptoms in autumn 2019.
The Wall Street Journal obtained a U.S. intelligence report in May showing that three Wuhan Institute of Virology researchers were hospitalized in November 2019.
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