China’s leadership has thus far declined to help with a global investigation into the pandemic’s roots. Now, the NIH director has confirmed that the agency hid COVID origins at the request of Chinese scientists.
Acting director of the National Institutes of Health Lawrence Tabak admitted to legislators on Wednesday that US health officials withheld initial COVID-19 genome sequences at the request of Chinese scientists, but said the information remained on file.
Tabak informed a House Appropriations subcommittee that the National Institutes of Health “eliminated from public view” data from the pandemic hotspot in Wuhan, China, before clarifying that investigators can still retrieve it via an archaic “tape drive.”
According to Vanity Fair, the material was kept under wraps in reaction to a request from Chinese scientists, despite the fact that it could help determine if the virus spilled from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or spread naturally from animals to humans.
Tabek was asked by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington) to clarify why US authorities would cooperate with that kind of a proposal.
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“There’s no question that the communication that we had about the sequence archive — Sequence Read Archive — could have been improved. I freely admit that,” Tabek said. “If I may, the archive never deleted the sequence, it just did not make it available for interrogation.”
“So wait, you have the information still?” Beutler followed up.
“We have the information … Anybody who submits to the Sequence Read Archive is allowed to ask for it to be removed,” Tabak explained. “And that investigator did do that. But we never erase it.”
“So you don’t have the information anymore?” Beutler asked.
“We do. We never erase the information. We keep it,” Tabak clarified.
“So they were able to withdraw public viewing of it?” the congresswoman followed up.
“That’s correct,” he said.
“OK, so researchers can apply to the NIH and get the information from you?” Beutler asked.
“In the way that it was originally eliminated from public view, it was withdrawn, and that’s the most difficult for people to access,” Tabak replied. “The error that was made, and we found this out after a review of all of our processes, was it should have been suppressed. The distinction being that if it’s withdrawn, it is kept archivally on a tape drive — old technology, but that’s how it’s done. But when it is withdrawn, it can still be accessed by accession number, and so researchers are able to access that information.”
“So the information is still there?” Beutler summed up.
“That’s correct. The information was never lost,” Tabak repeated.
Vanity Fair revealed on March 31 that evolutionary researcher Jesse Bloom found early COVID-19 sequences were missing from a government managed data depository last year.
Bloom was allegedly ganged up on by a committee of researchers put together by then-NIH Director Francis Collins and infectious disease institute director Dr. Anthony Fauci when he addressed the problem.
Bloom reportedly shared a draft academic paper with Collins and Fauci, who reportedly opposed to Bloom’s account of Chinese scientists “surreptitiously” erasing the sequences during a Zoom video call in June 2021. According to the report, Fauci explained the phrase “loaded” meant a coverup.
Collins allegedly informed Bloom that the Wuhan team had the authority to take back early pandemic data and that it was immoral for Bloom to dispute it. Evolutionary biologist Kristian Andersen was chosen to attend on the call by Collins.
Andersen is said to have offered to erase Bloom’s piece from a “preprint” server “in a way that would leave no record that this had been done.”
China’s leadership has declined to help with a global investigation into the pandemic’s roots. Since March 2020, the COVID-19 virus has murdered around 1 million Americans and triggered significant social, economic, and educational upheavals.
In an August report, the US intelligence community stated that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, citing this scenario as one of two “plausible” possibilities alongside natural spread through animals.
President Biden seldom expresses publicly his desire for China to be open about the pandemic’s roots. Former President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has requested $10 trillion in compensation from China.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told The Post on Monday that the Biden administration is contemplating reversing some of Trump’s levies on Chinese goods “separately” of US efforts for coronavirus disclosure.
According to documents obtained by The Intercept in September, US health officials obliquely bankrolled “gain of function” studies at the Wuhan lab, which included the alteration of three bat coronaviruses distinguishable from COVID-19 and the revelation that when human-type receptors were introduced to them, they had become much more contagious among “humanized” mice.