Republican lawmakers in the Senate have introduced a bill to approve Chinese officials who hinder an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. It would also end all federal funding for joint projects with the country’s national academy.
Marco Rubio (R-FL) and co-sponsored by more than a dozen GOP allies, was also tabled in Congress last year.
It gives Beijing 90 days after it was enacted to grant unfettered access to a team of international scientists to laboratories at the first COVID-19 epicenter in central China, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
In February 2021, more than a year after the pandemic began, a team of WHO and Chinese experts concluded that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, was unlikely to have emerged as a result of a laboratory accident. Was.
The findings point to a zoonotic origin, but even there, the joint investigation was inconclusive.
Five months later, the UN health body launched the second phase of its origin-tracing investigation. The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the so-called “lab leak” hypothesis was dismissed too soon; He requested to take another look at Wuhan and its surrounding environment as well as facilities like WIV.
China outrightly rejected the proposal, calling the plans “impossible”.
The United States has vowed to continue to pressure Beijing for a transparent investigation, but Rubio’s COVID act could force the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership to be brought to the table, he said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We know that the virus originated in China, however, the CCP’s efforts to hide the truth have resulted in countless deaths and unnecessary suffering around the world. It is clear that Beijing is only responding to concerted pressure from the United States and the international community. will give.” said.
in an op-ed Washington Examiner, Rubio wrote the party’s “secrecy and blatant obstruction” from the pandemic’s early days meant the origins of the virus were still a mystery two full years later – and the loss of more than 840,000 American lives and millions worldwide. after.
“This is unacceptable. The world deserves to know the truth about COVID-19, and the US government must punish those who keep the facts in the dark,” he said.
Under the law, which does not yet have a Democrat co-sponsor, Chinese officials have concealed the status of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, and which continue to hinder international efforts to trace the origins of the virus, financially. Will be affected and diplomatic sanctions.
More consequence, however, is a clause that would halt all federal funding for joint research conducted by US-based scientists and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China’s omnipresent Academy of Natural Sciences, under which WIV operates. Is.
The COVID Act would cut grants “in all academic fields” where CAS is involved – a move that would have implications beyond just biological research. While this would ensure an end to anything resembling so-called “profit-of-function” studies – the genetic manipulation of organisms to enhance their functions – it would undoubtedly influence many other research areas within the scientific community.
Beijing has ruled out the possibility of an escape of COVID-19 from one of its biosecurity facilities, citing a WHO-China study conducted early last year. It has attacked the US and others for “politicizing” origin-tracing efforts.
Last month, former President Donald Trump said China owed the world nearly $60 trillion for causing the pandemic, which he believes began as a result of a leak at WIV.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded by saying that Trump was “first to blame” for the suffering of the pandemic in the US