White House press secretary Jen Psaki asserted that the U.S. does not have the “means” to confirm that workers at a Wuhan lab got sick ahead of the pandemic.
How we got here: A U.S. intelligence report, reported by the Wall Street Journal on Monday, revealed that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, were sick and even required hospitalization in the fall of 2019. They are believed to have developed symptoms before the first reported case of COVID-19, which was recorded in the city of Wuhan, China, where the lab is located.
It is unclear if the lab employees contracted the coronavirus or they simply had the flu. The document said their symptoms were “consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.”
What Psaki said: The White House Press Secretary was asked about the report during a press briefing on Monday where she claimed that the U.S. government cannot confirm the claims in it.
“In terms of the report, which is specifically about individuals being hospitalized, we have no means of confirming that or denying that. I mean, it’s not a report from the United States,” Psaki said.
When Reuters journalist Jeff Mason pointed to Psaki that WSJ described it as a “previously undisclosed U.S. report,” she said: “Well, I don’t have any — I don’t have anything more on the US intelligence report from here.”
Fox News reporter Peter Doocy pressed Psaki on why the administration doesn’t do more to investigate the origins of the coronavirus and why President Joe Biden, who claims he was close to Chinese President Xi Jinping when he served as vice president under Obama, does not ask Xi to be more forthcoming with information about the issue.
“You’re misunderstanding how this process actually works. An international investigation led by the World Health Organization is something that we’ve actually been pressing for for several months, in coordination with a range of partners around the world. We need that data, we need that information from the Chinese government,” the press secretary said.
“So is there any amount of casualties from COVID in this country that would make you want to not wait for an international effort?” Doocy asked.
“I think the family members of the loved ones whose lives have been lost and deserve accurate information, data, not the jumping to a conclusion without having the information necessary to conclude what the origins are,” Psaki responded.
How we got here: WHO investigators went to Wuhan in hopes of determining the origins of the virus that spread across the world and caused a pandemic, however they did not come to a conclusion. They said there is a small chance that the virus might have escaped from a lab but that it’s more likely that it jumped from animals to humans.
Still, there is some skepticism regarding that investigation, given that China did not allow for an independent probe.
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