After four weeks of so-called COVID-19 investigation in Wuhan, China, including two weeks of quarantine and some sightseeing, World Health Organization investigators delivered the Chinese Communist Party a propaganda victory. While dismissing the likelihood that the coronavirus leaked from a Wuhan lab, the WHO now endorses the CCP’s conspiracy theory that the coronavirus originated outside of China and came into the country through frozen food products.
Given the WHO’s shameful history of letting Beijing’s politics dictate the organization’s pandemic responses and all the revelations of China’s cover-up in the early days of the pandemic, even the Biden administration is skeptical of the WHO’s conclusion.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said since the Chinese haven’t offered “the requisite transparency that we need,” the United States would not accept the WHO’s finding without “independently verifying the findings using our own intelligence and conferring with allies.”
But Peter Daszak, the sole American on the WHO team, would have none of it. He picked a fight with the Biden administration over Twitter:
Joe Biden has to look tough on China. Please don’t rely too much on US intel: increasingly disengaged under Trump & frankly wrong on many aspects. Happy to help WH w/ their quest to verify, but don’t forget it’s ‘TRUST’ then ‘VERIFY”!’
But it is Daszak whom we cannot trust and whose finding we must verify due to his conflicts of interest?
Daszak’s Problematic Ties
Daszak is the president of Eco Health Alliance, an American-based organization that “conducts research and outreach programs on global health, conservation, and international development.” Between 2014 and early 2020, EHA channeled some grants it received from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The WIV grants were for conducting research on bat coronavirus, regarded as “a dangerous and contentious scientific practice that involves making pathogens more deadly and more infectious for dual-use purposes.” Dual-use means knowledge gained from such research can either be used for civilian purposes — such as developing a vaccine — or for military purposes including the development of bioweapons.
With the financial support from Eco Health Alliance, the Wuhan Institute of Virology built China’s only BSL-4 level research facility, equipped to conduct the most dangerous bioresearch in the world. The institute also became home to Dr. Shi Zhengli, who is known as “bat woman” for her research in coronaviruses such as COVID-19. Since the Institute is within walking distance from Huanan Seafood Market — where early known COVID-19 infection cases were reported — many are naturally suspicious that a leak from the WIV caused the outbreak.
Given the close financial ties between the Eco Health Alliance and Wuhan Institute of Virology, it’s no wonder that Daszak couldn’t stay neutral and objective while participating in the WHO’s COVID-19 investigation in China. Indeed, Daszak has been the most vocal defender of the WIV since the beginning of the pandemic, making the rounds on the media from “60 Minutes” to The New York Times. In multiple interviews, he dismissed any question of the institute’s role in the pandemic as a conspiracy and politically motivated, essentially repeating the talking points the Chinese government has used to deflect inquiring into the possible roles the institute and Beijing might have played.
Back to the Wuhan Institute of Virology
As New York Magazine reports, when the NIH asked EHA to stop funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology last spring, Daszak organized 77 Nobel Laureates to sign an open statement, calling for the NIH to restore WIV funding. Then, when NIH asked Daszak to coordinate an outside inspection of the institute and collect any samples Wuhan scientists used to sequence the virus as a condition for funding, Daszak reportedly fought back angrily, claiming it wasn’t his job to serve as a private investigator and claiming it wasn’t fair he had to reveal everything he did.
Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, pointed out that her research shows COVID-19 could be man-made because it “contains an uncommon genetic sequence that has been used by genetic engineers in the past to insert genes into coronaviruses without leaving a trace.” Daszak proceeded to attack Chen ruthlessly on social media, calling Chen’s research “sloppy” and “poorly designed.”
It is quite problematic, to say the least, that a man this biased and influenced by his conflicts of interest was picked by the WHO to be part of the COVID-19 investigation in Wuhan, China. It would be laughable if the ramifications weren’t so grave.
To be sure, the WHO’s Peter Ben Embarek did say he asked staff who worked there whether anything was leaked, because “they’re the best ones to dismiss the claims and provide answers to all the questions.” Honestly, is he truly this naive?
Beijing has cracked down on any domestic dissenting voices, including making citizen journalists who reported the early coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan “disappear,” ordering labs to destroy any virus related samples they collected, and preventing scientists and doctors from speaking out. In such a high-pressure political environment, how could we expect anyone who works at the Wuhan Institute of Virology to tell the truth?
Paving the Way for Future COVIDs
In early January, the Trump administration’s State Department released a report stating the U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019. Even some members of the corporate media that formerly dismissed the lab leak theory have since said it is not a conspiracy theory but a theory worth our attention and investigation.
To Beijing’s delight, however, the WHO team led by Daszak not only dismissed the likelihood of a lab leak without a thorough investigation but also endorsed Beijing’s bizarre theory that the coronavirus might have spread into China through frozen food imports from either Europe or the United States. In an attempt to shift the blame of the pandemic to somewhere else outside China, Beijing has been promoting strikingly similar theories for months.
This hypothesis is challenged by numerous serious scientists around the world. Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University Medical Center, asks, “Why Wuhan first? Of all the seafood markets in China and Asia and around the world how did the cold-chain packaging end up causing an outbreak in Wuhan first?” Annie Sparrow, a global health expert tells Foreign Policy that “There’s no evidence for this epidemiologically preposterous theory that it was exported to Wuhan. China didn’t import it. It incubated it.”
The New York Times reports that the Chinese government refused to share key data with the WHO investigation team. Instead, “Chinese officials urged the W.H.O. team to embrace the government’s narrative about the source of the virus, including the unproven notion that it might have spread to China from abroad.” The WHO’s COVID-19 investigation in Wuhan was nothing but a farce.
Led by Daszak, the whole investigation was set up as a performance so the WHO could pretend it did its job while delivering Beijing a propaganda victory by claiming “nothing to see here.” Daszak’s continuing defense of this indefensible “investigation” and his attempt to discredit the U.S. intelligence only further damages his own as well as the WHO’s reputation and creditability.
COVID-19 has infected more than 100 million people and is responsible for more than 2 million deaths around the world. Few people on the planet have not been affected by it in some way. For the future health of more than 7 billion people on this planet, we need and deserve a thorough investigation of the origin of COVID-19.
Indeed, Chan warns: “The world is sitting on a precedent-setting decision right now. It is unclear if SARS2 [another name for COVID-19] is 100 percent natural or emerged due to lab/research activities. If we walk away from this, demonstrating that we cannot effectively investigate its origins, it will pave the way for future COVIDs.”
For the future health of humanity, we need and deserve a thorough investigation of the origin of COVID-19. The problem remains, however, that we can’t trust the WHO and biased scientists like Daszak to uncover the truth.