Chinese researchers warned of a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan approximately two years before COVID-19 emerged in the same city, according to Washington Post columnist and author Josh Rogin.
The United States reportedly ignored those warnings.
What are the details?
In a lengthy Politico article titled "In 2018, Diplomats Warned of Risky Coronavirus Experiments in a Wuhan Lab. No One Listened," Rogin said that U.S. health and science officials from the embassy in Beijing attended a late 2017 conference that detailed warnings about the possibility of a new SARS-related virus transmitted by bats and suffered by humans.
The article is based on an excerpt of Rogin's new book, "Chaos Under Heaven: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the Twenty-First Century," and was published Monday.
"On January 15, in its last days, President Donald Trump's State Department put out a statement with serious claims about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic," Rogin wrote in the article. "The statement said the U.S. intelligence community had evidence that several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory were sick with Covid-like symptoms in autumn 2019 — implying the Chinese government had hidden crucial information about the outbreak for months — and that the WIV lab, despite 'presenting itself as a civilian institution,' was conducting secret research projects with the Chinese military."
Rogin continued, "The State Department alleged a Chinese government cover-up and asserted that 'Beijing continues today to withhold vital information that scientists need to protect the world from this deadly virus, and the next one.'"
According to reports, the U.S. embassy sent at least three teams of experts in the ensuing months to speak with scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology regarding lab safety practices.
"When they sat down with the scientists at the WIV, the American diplomats were shocked by what they heard," Rogin noted. "The Chinese researchers told them they didn't have enough properly trained technicians to safely operate their BSL-4 lab. The Wuhan scientists were asking for more support to get the lab up to top standards."
Following the meetings, diplomats wrote cable warnings to Washington "begging people to pay attention to what was going on" and urging Washington to do more to help the lab.
"They also warned that the WIV researchers had found new bat coronaviruses [that] could easily infect human cells, and which used the same cellular route that had been used by the original SARS coronavirus," Rogin reported.
Rogin said that one of the cable writers said that messages were intended to warn the U.S. of a large-scale potential public health emergency related to the Wuhan lab, but the messages were reportedly never made public.
Rogin also said that the two cables were designed to alert the U.S. government of "a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory."
"We were trying to warn that the lab was a serious danger," one of the writers said. "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."
Rogin in the article also notes, "The exact origin of the new coronavirus remains a mystery to this day, but the search for answers is not just about assigning blame. Unless the source is located, the true path of the virus can't be traced, and scientists can't properly study the best ways to prevent future outbreaks."
You can read the rest of the excerpt here.