The Wall Street Journal has published an article summarising an undisclosed U.S. intelligence report claiming that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sought hospital care in November 2019 for possible COVID-19, a month before China reported the first cases of COVID-19 on December 8th, with the implication that they were infected in the lab and were among the first patients to become infected with the disease. Reuters reports on the Wall Street Journal story:
The newspaper said the previously undisclosed report – which provides fresh details on the number of researchers affected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospital visits – may add weight to calls for a broader investigation into whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped from the laboratory.
The Journal said current and former officials familiar with the intelligence expressed a range of views about the strength of the report’s supporting evidence, with one unnamed person saying it needed “further investigation and additional corroboration.”
This may seem to add weight to the lab leak theory. However, the timing doesn’t fit with some other keys pieces of data.
A leaked report from China looked back at hospital records and suggested the first patients infected with COVID-19 were being admitted to Wuhan hospitals in October, before any putative lab leak in November.
A U.S. military intelligence dossier which came to light in April 2020 documented a runaway epidemic in the Hubei region (of which Wuhan is the capital) in November (though the Pentagon has denied the existence of this dossier), which fits with the leaked Chinese report but not the U.S. intelligence report, since a November outbreak would not have had time to become a region-wide epidemic in the same month. It takes some weeks for a first cluster of cases to spread throughout a population of millions and cause a noticeable number of hospital admissions. Regional newspaper reports also suggest Covid was already circulating in Hubei in mid-November.
A November lab leak also seems too late given the virus was already infecting people around the world in December, with the first official UK fatal infection being caught in England in December.
Putting this together, it could mean one of three things: 1) The reported WIV staff sickness in November, as documented in the latest U.S. intelligence report, was not the original lab leak, just part of the later epidemic, or a second leak from the same lab and the original leak happened earlier (say, in September); 2) Covid did not leak from the WIV at all and there is another reason Wuhan was the first epicentre; 3) this was the leak and the reports implying an earlier epidemic are somehow incorrect or unrelated.
The plot thickens.