China’s state-run Global Times newspaper published an alleged “investigation” on Monday into a U.S. Army laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, which it dubbed the “#1 suspect” in the search for the origin of the Chinese coronavirus.
The director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC), Gao Fu, had first admitted in January 2020 that evidence suggested the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 4 million people as of Monday, came from “the wildlife sold illegally in a Wuhan seafood market.”
Leaked Chinese government documents published by the South China Morning Post revealed that the first known confirmed case of human infection by the Chinese coronavirus was documented in Wuhan, a central Chinese metropolis, on November 17, 2019. No other location confirmed any cases of Chinese coronavirus anywhere in the world prior to that date, according to the data currently available.
Despite Gao’s public statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian began openly speculating in March 2020, offering no evidence for his claim, that the Fort Detrick facility may be the “true” origin of the disease.
No evidence suggests that Maryland experienced coronavirus cases before Wuhan, nor does it indicate the presence of any unexplained respiratory disease in that state in the period immediately before the Wuhan outbreak. Despite the lack of evidence, Zhao reminds a verified user on Twitter, where he first spread misinformation regarding Fort Detrick.
The Global Times report published on Monday is in part a response to growing concerns in the international community that the original theory linking the outbreak to the consumption of illegal game meat also significantly lacks evidence.
China allowed the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) to visit Wuhan to investigate the origin of the virus in January 2021, nearly a year after admitting to destroying early samples of the virus and “disinfecting” the live meat market Gao signaled as a potential origin location, leaving no evidence to use to track the evolution of the virus.
The 120-page report stated that experts tested 80,000 animal samples from areas throughout China and could not find a single animal testing positive for Chinese coronavirus. It nonetheless concluded that the virus infecting humans through an animal reservoir was the likeliest explanation for the pandemic.
The W.H.O. report rekindled interest in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a biological laboratory known to have been studying bat coronaviruses throughout 2019. Chinese officials have insisted that an accident at the WIV could not have possibly triggered the pandemic, pointing at the U.S. Army laboratory, instead.
The Global Times accused global media of publishing reports raising questions about the WIV “while turning a blind eye to the more suspicious American biological research institutions, such as the infamous US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland.”
“The terrible safety records of American biological labs around the world shows a possibility of a virus escaping from an American lab. Many point to the shutdown of Fort Detrick lab in July 2019,” the Global Times asserted. Its evidence is the fact that the Fort Detrick facility temporarily shut down in July 2019 over a failure of its water decontamination system.
The Communist Party propaganda outlet declared this explanation “not persuasive enough” and claimed that it is “highly likely” that employees at Fort Detrick were infected with the Chinese coronavirus “but showed no obvious symptoms.”
Studies on asymptomatic spread of coronavirus indicate that, while it does exist, it does not represent enough of a percentage of known infections to sustain the claim that it is “highly likely” every person infected in the Global Times scenario would present no indication of infection.
The Global Times admitted two key facts debunking its own accusations towards the Fort Detrick laboratory. The first is that, unlike the WIV, Fort Detrick was not known to be studying coronaviruses. As the Chinese state newspaper noted, the facility “studies deadly infectious material like Ebola and smallpox,” significantly less contagious viruses than the Chinese coronavirus.
The second pivotal note in the exposé is the fact that the United States grants citizens the right to question facilities like Fort Detrick through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and that the U.S. government indeed granted a FOIA request for the Fort Detrick shutdown that revealed so indication of infectious respiratory disease spreading in the laboratory.
Chinese law does not have a FOIA equivalent its citizens can use to investigate the WIV.
The Global Times concluded by claiming that Wuhan doctors first identified the novel coronavirus not because it originated there, but because its healthcare system is superior to America’s. It then cited experts who asserted that “laboratory leak is easy to identify, as infections are bound to show signs.”
“The novel coronavirus was first discovered by three Chinese companies at the same time. It is very simple to detect these things, and China has lots of such third-party companies with strong medical detection ability,” another “expert claimed.”
The allegation that identifying such outbreaks is easy undermines the propaganda outlet’s claims that an outbreak at Fort Detrick could have remained undetected for as much as half a year.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry again demanded access to Fort Detrick in its regular press briefing on Monday – in response to a question from a Global Times “reporter.”
“We once again urge the U.S. side to immediately stop its political manipulation on the origin tracing issue, and stop playing dirty tricks on the scientific community,” spokesman Wang Wenbin asserted. “It should adopt a scientific and transparent attitude to invite W.H.O. experts for origin tracing study in the U.S., and provide a responsible account of the real situation at Fort Detrick and the more than 200 bio labs it runs all around the world.”
Wang accused American officials questioning the safety standards at the Wuhan laboratory of “hegemony, bullying, and coercion.”