Health authorities have suspended funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the Chinese lab at the center of investigations over COVID-19 origins.
The Wuhan lab is now barred from federal government procurement and non-procurement programs because it had violated biosafety protocols and did not comply with U.S. regulations on gain-of-function research, according to a Department of Health and Human Services memo.
In 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based research organization, to focus on coronaviruses originating from bats. Some money was directed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. However, the grant was halted in 2020 amid controversy over COVID-19 origins.
The WIV and EcoHealth have repeatedly denied any connection between their research and the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, first identified in Wuhan in December 2019.
The virus quickly spread over the world, resulting in months-long lockdowns, healthcare systems brought to the brink of collapse, and over 6,9 million deaths. However, the U.S. intelligence agencies still don't have a definite answer on how COVID-19 started.
Although the Wuhan lab conducted extensive research on coronaviruses before the pandemic, there is no indication that the WIV scientists worked on SARSCoV-2 or viruses close to it, according to a report declassified last month. Furthermore, there is no direct evidence that an incident in which the lab's staff members got ill with respiratory symptoms in 2019 caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four U.S. intelligence agencies think the virus most likely jumped from animals to humans, whereas the Department of Energy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers a laboratory-associated incident to be the most likely cause of the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2.
China has repeatedly refused to share information on the early days of the coronavirus outbreak with international partners. Such data could help scientists better understand what caused COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics.
- Department of Health & Human Services. Action Referral Memorandum.
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (U) Potential Links Between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.