Hill panel approves funding ban for US group linked to Chinese lab at center of COVID controversy

A House Appropriations Panel has approved an amendment to a major spending bill pushed by Congress that would ban funding for work in China by a New York-based group linked to suspected virus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology ( WIV).

The 2023 budget bill for the State Department includes language to curb spending in China for the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, a group whose president worked closely on gain-of-function virus research at the Wuhan Institute. The institute’s work is at the heart of a furious global scientific debate over whether COVID-19 passed naturally from animals to humans or was the result of an accidental leak from the Chinese research facility near the heart of the original outbreak in 2019.

The amendment was drafted by Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, Pennsylvania Republican, and passed by one vote on June 29 by the House Appropriations Committee. The amendment says the Secretary of State can waive the funding ban if the aid proves to be in national security. interest.

“It is deeply disturbing that US taxpayers’ money has been funneled into a lab controlled by the Chinese Communist Party that conducts dangerous…research and is the likely origin of COVID-19,” Mr Reschenthaler told The Washington Times.

“We must ensure that organizations that have historically funded risky experiments in labs controlled by our foreign adversaries do not receive a cent of US tax dollars,” he added.

US intelligence agencies have reported that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is one of two possible sources for the coronavirus pandemic. The spy services say the virus could also come from an infected animal.

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US and international researchers say the Chinese government is continuing to hold back investigations into the origins of the pandemic. Beijing has refused to provide samples of the virus first collected in December 2019 when the pneumonia-like illness appeared in Wuhan.

EcoHealth sent grant money it received from the federal government to the Wuhan Institute for bat virus research, including efforts to make bat viruses more contagious to humans in what’s called “function gain” research in the search for a vaccine or for military research into biological warfare.

The New York-based EcoHealth Alliance did not respond to a telephone request for comment.

EcoHealth president Peter Daszak, a British zoologist, was part of an initial World Health Organization research team that concluded it was highly unlikely that the virus behind COVID-19 was leaking from a Chinese lab. That conclusion has since been reversed by the WHO which now considers the lab leak theory a viable origin for the disease outbreak.

Mr Daszak also hosted a letter from a group of scientists published in the medical journal Lancet in 2020 condemning what the scientists called “conspiracy theories” that COVID-19 came from a lab.

John Ratcliffe, former director of national intelligence, has said several scientists, such as Mr. Daszak and Anthony Fauci, currently the chief medical adviser to the White House, falsely claimed that there are no live bats, gain-of-function research or military activities were at WIV .

“We had information that told us all those things were happening there,” said Mr. Ratcliffe.

It’s not clear whether the change in credits would block funding from the National Institutes of Health to EcoHealth Alliance.

NIH provided $3.1 million in grants to EcoHealth from 2014 to 2019. A total of $599,000 of those funds was spent on the Wuhan lab for research into identifying and altering bat coronaviruses, according to documents obtained by the newsletter The Intercept.

dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate hearing last month that US funding for Chinese scientific research will continue.

During a hearing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Dr. Fauci funded Chinese research that he said had made significant advances in biomedical research.

“So I don’t think I can tell you that we’re going to stop funding [the] Chinese,” he said, adding that the government “must be careful” with financing in China and that the subsidies are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

dr. Fauci also said he believes the virus “very, very likely” originated from an animal host and that a lab leak was still the less likely source.

In the final days of the Trump administration, the State Department published a fact sheet in January 2021 revealing information pointing to the WIV as the source for the coronavirus.

The intelligence included the illnesses of three WIV employees with symptoms similar to COVID-19 prior to the official outbreak in December 2019. Other intelligence included details of the bat virus research and the fact that the Chinese military was conducting experiments in the lab, contrary to claims of WIV officials.

A Marine Corps investigator revealed in a memorandum released in January that the virus behind the pandemic was produced from vaccine research at WIV, The Washington Times reported.

maj. Joseph P. Murphy, in the memo to the Inspector General of the Pentagon, the EcoHealth Alliance, the National Institutes of Health and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, disclosed the virus known as SARS-CoV-2 from job gain research described in a proposal for a Pentagon grant.

“SARS-CoV-2 is an American-made recombinant bat vaccine, or its precursor virus,” said Major Murphy in an Aug. 13, 2021 memo made public this week by Project Veritas. “It was created by an EcoHealth Alliance program of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), as suggested by the reporting around the lab-leak hypothesis.”

For more information, visit the Washington Times’ Covid-19 Resources page.

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