US investigating possible coronavirus patient zero due to unsafe Wuhan lab

Intelligence officials do not believe the virus was a bioweapon deliberately developed by China, but may have been transmitted from a bat to a human in the laboratory.

A policeman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China at an arrival hall of Haneda airport in Tokyo (photo credit: REUTERS)
A policeman wearing a mask walks past a quarantine notice about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China at an arrival hall of Haneda airport in Tokyo
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US intelligence officials are reportedly investigating the possibility that the novel coronavirus outbreak began in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, via an accidental bat-to-human transmission rather than at a market, multiple unidentified sources told Fox News.
However, intelligence officials do not believe the virus was a bioweapon deliberately developed by China. Rather, they believe the virus was indeed the result of a zoonotic transmission from a bat to human, but that "patient zero" worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab and then spread the disease to the public.
The coronavirus outbreak began in the city of Wuhan, in China's Hubei province, and has since spread across the world, infecting over a million people and killing hundreds of thousands. It was initially believed that the outbreak began at a wet market in the city, but according to documents viewed by Fox News, the market in question never sold bats.
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The sources told Fox that China may have shifted the blame onto the wet markets in order to deflect any blame on the laboratory.
One of the sources called this effort the "costliest government cover-up of all time," according to Fox.
"More and more we're hearing the story... we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation," US President Donald Trump told Fox.
There is precedence for this worry about the possibility of an accidental transmission from the Wuhan lab. In January 2018, US officials warned about subpar safety conditions at the laboratory, and commented about risky research being conducted on coronaviruses from bats, according to a Washington Post report.
"It should be no surprise to you that we have taken a keen interest in that and we've had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said.
"I would just say at this point, it's inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural, but we don't know for certain."
On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper accused China of withholding important information regarding the coronavirus.
"I think in due course, once we get through the pandemic we're in right now, there'll be time to look back and really ascertain what happened and make sure we have a better understanding so we can prevent this in the future," he told America's Newsroom.
Also Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced his own suspicions regarding the responsibility of the Wuhan lab.
"What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There is still lots to learn," Pompeo told The Story.
"You should know that the United States government is working diligently to figure it out."
The secretary of state added that the laboratory "contained highly contagious materials – we knew that, we knew that they were working on this program, many countries have programs like this. In countries that are open and transparent, they have the ability to control them and keep them safe, and they allow outside observers in to make sure all the processes and procedures are right. I only wish that that had happened in this place."
In the early days of the outbreak, China reportedly attempted to suppress evidence of the spread of the coronavirus, with doctors being censored and some journalists allegedly being "dissapeared." In addition, allegations have also been made of supposed complicity on the part of the World Health Organization (WHO) in covering up evidence of China's cover-up.
In response to these allegations, the Trump administration announced a temporary halt to all US funding towards the WHO, claiming that the organization "political correctness over lifesaving measures," though the move was met with widespread condemnation.
In related news, China began adding extra restrictions on academic research on the novel coronavirus, though the central government directive and online notices published by Chinese universities on the matter have since been deleted from the Internet, CNN reported on April 13.
Though the notices were deleted, a staff member of China's Education Ministry's science and technology department confirmed to CNN that the directive had indeed been issued.
"It is not supposed to be made public – it is an internal document," the staff member, who refused to reveal their name, told CNN.
According to the report, the new policy has mandated that all academic papers related to the virus must be vetted before being submitted for publication, with studies on the outbreak's origin being subjected to extra scrutiny and approval by central government officials.
"I think it is a coordinated effort from (the) Chinese government to control (the) narrative, and paint it as if the outbreak did not originate in China," a Chinese researcher told CNN on the condition of anonymity. "And I don't think they will really tolerate any objective study to investigate the origination of this disease."
In a statement, China's Foreign Ministry said that the WHO has found no evidence that the coronavirus could have originated from a laboratory, Reuters reported.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.