A scientist, Andrew Huff, who worked closely with the Wuhan lab has claimed in a new book that COVID was genetically engineered – and accidentally leaked from the facility.
Huff claims the issue is one of the greatest cover-ups in history – and the “biggest US intelligence failure since 9/11”.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology – a high-security lab specializing in coronaviruses – has for years been the focus of questions as to whether COVID could have escaped from its lab.
Both China and the lab have denied any allegations – but evidence of a lab leak has been piling up over the last two years as scientists, researchers and governments hunt for answers and step forward with evidence.
According to the UK’s Sun newspaper, which was provided with early access to the book, dozens of experts have suggested COVID could have escaped from the Wuhan lab through an infected researcher, improper disposal of waste, or potential breaches in the security at the site.
Even the head of the World Health Organisation reportedly believes COVID did leak from the lab after a “catastrophic accident”.
In his new book – The Truth About Wuhan – Huff claims the pandemic was the result of the US government’s funding of dangerous genetic engineering of coronaviruses in China.
The epidemiologist said China’s gain-of-function experiments – carried out with shoddy biosecurity – led to a lab leak at the US-funded Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Sun reported.
“EcoHealth Alliance and foreign laboratories did not have the adequate control measures in place for ensuring proper biosafety, biosecurity, and risk management, ultimately resulting in the lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” he said in his book.
EcoHealth Alliance, of which Huff was former vice president, had been studying different coronaviruses in bats for more than ten years with funding from the National Institutes of Health – and developed close working ties with the Wuhan lab.
Huff, who worked at EcoHealth Alliance from 2014 to 2016 and served as vice president from 2015, worked on the classified side of the research program as a US government scientist.
The army veteran, from Michigan, said the organization taught the Wuhan lab the “best existing methods to engineer bat coronaviruses to attack other species” for many years, the Sun reported.
“The US government is to blame for the transfer of dangerous biotechnology to the Chinese,” he said.
Speaking to The Sun Huff added: “I was terrified by what I saw. We were just handing them bioweapon technology.”
In his book, the emerging infectious diseases expert claims “greedy scientists killed millions of people globally” – and goes as far as to claim the US government covered it up, the Sun reported.
Huff said: “Nobody should be surprised that the Chinese lied about the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and then went to extraordinary lengths to make it appear as if the disease naturally emerged.
“The shocking part of all of this is how the United States government lied to all of us.”
Although he pointed out he has seen no evidence China deliberately released the virus.
According to the Sun, Huff believes the US-funded project was “mostly a global fishing expedition for coronaviruses” to carry out a gain of function work or for intelligence collection – rather than preventing future pandemics.
“At the time, I felt like the project seemed more like intelligence collection than scientific research and development,” he said in his book.
He alleges the US was using the project to assess the bioweapon capabilities of foreign labs – including the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Huff said US government officials issued warnings in January 2018 about the Wuhan lab – including the major shortage of experts needed to safely manage research on deadly coronaviruses.
As he began to unravel the alleged extensive cover-up by the US government, he said the authorities launched a massive campaign of harassment against him.
He claimed military-grade drones would often appear at his home, he was stalked at the supermarket, and he was followed by unknown vehicles.
US proposes once-a-year COVID shots for most Americans
U.S. health officials want to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the annual flu shot.
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday proposed a simplified approach for future vaccination efforts, allowing most adults and children to get a once-a-year shot to protect against the mutating virus, AP reported.
This means Americans would no longer have to keep track of how many shots they’ve received or how many months it’s been since their last booster.
The proposal comes as boosters have become a hard sell. While more than 80% of the U.S. population has had at least one vaccine dose, only 16% of those eligible have received the latest boosters authorized in August.
The FDA will ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to weigh in at a meeting Thursday. The agency is expected to take their advice into consideration while deciding future vaccine requirements for manufacturers.
In documents posted online, FDA scientists say many Americans now have “sufficient preexisting immunity” against the coronavirus because of vaccination, infection or a combination of the two. That baseline of protection should be enough to move to an annual booster against the latest strains in circulation and make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the yearly flu shot, according to the agency.
For adults with weakened immune systems and very small children, a two-dose combination may be needed for protection. FDA scientists and vaccine companies would study vaccination, infection rates and other data to decide who should receive a single shot versus a two-dose series.
FDA will also ask its panel to vote on whether all vaccines should target the same strains. That step would be needed to make the shots interchangeable, doing away with the current complicated system of primary vaccinations and boosters.
The original two-dose COVID shots have offered strong protection against severe disease and death no matter the variant, but protection against mild infection wanes. Experts continue to debate whether the latest round of boosters significantly enhanced protection, particularly for younger, healthy Americans.
Chinese pray for health in Lunar New Year as COVID death toll rises
China rang in the Lunar New Year on Sunday with its people praying for health after three years of stress and financial hardship under the pandemic, as officials reported almost 13,000 new deaths caused by the virus between January 13 and 19.
Queues stretched for about one kilometre outside the iconic Lama temple in Beijing, which had been repeatedly shut before COVID-19 restrictions ended in early December, with thousands of people waiting for their turn to pray for their loved ones.
One Beijing resident said she wished the year of the rabbit will bring “health to everyone”.
“I think this wave of the pandemic is gone,” said the 57-year-old, who only gave her last name, Fang. “I didn’t get the virus, but my husband and everyone in my family did. I still think it’s important to protect ourselves.”
Earlier, officials reported almost 13,000 deaths related to COVID in hospitals between January 13 and 19, adding to the nearly 60,000 in the month or so before that. Chinese health experts say the wave of infections across the country has already peaked, Reuters reported.
The death toll update, from China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, comes amid doubts over Beijing’s data transparency and remains extremely low by global standards.
Hospitals and funeral homes were overwhelmed after China abandoned the world’s strictest regime of COVID controls and mass testing on Dec. 7 in an abrupt policy U-turn, which followed historic protests against the curbs.
The death count reported by Chinese authorities excludes those who died at home, and some doctors have said they are discouraged from putting COVID on death certificates.
China on Jan. 14 reported nearly 60,000 COVID-related deaths in hospitals between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, a huge increase from the 5,000-plus deaths reported previously over the entire pandemic period.
China says COVID outbreak has infected 80% of population
The possibility of a big COVID-19 rebound in China over the next two or three months is remote as 80% of people have been infected, a prominent government scientist said on Saturday.
The mass movement of people during the ongoing Lunar New Year holiday period may spread the pandemic, boosting infections in some areas, but a second COVID wave is unlikely in the near term, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on the Weibo social media platform, Reuters reported.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese are traveling across the country for holiday reunions that had been suspended under recently eased COVID curbs, raising fears of fresh outbreaks in rural areas less equipped to manage large outbreaks.
China has passed the peak of COVID patients in fever clinics, emergency rooms and with critical conditions, a National Health Commission official said on Thursday.
Nearly 60,000 people with COVID had died in hospital as of Jan. 12, roughly a month after China abruptly dismantled its zero-COVID policy, according to government data.
But some experts said that figure probably vastly undercounts the full impact, as it excludes those who die at home, and because many doctors have said they are discouraged from citing COVID as a cause of death.
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