China deliberately destroyed evidence about start of coronavirus, report says

Leaked document reportedly states that human-to-human transmission was not confirmed by Beijing until 20 January despite evidence of it in December

Kim Sengupta
Defence Editor
Saturday 02 May 2020 18:42 BST
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A research assessment reported to have been compiled by the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance of western states has stated that the Chinese government deliberately hid or destroyed evidence about the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.

The document charts how Beijing denied at first that the disease could be transmitted between humans; silenced or ‘disappeared’ medics who tried to warn of the outbreak; blocked access by international organisations to Wuhan, where it originated; and refused to provide live samples to international scientists trying to find a vaccine.

The Five Eyes intelligence network – comprising the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – has been sharing information on Covid-19, but there is no specific joint operation on the issue. US intelligence agencies are carrying out an investigation at the order of Donald Trump, who has demanded that China pays compensation for its alleged negligence in allowing the pandemic to spread around the world.

The document, obtained by The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Australia, reportedly charts a timeline of subterfuge by China and how it censored news about the outbreak. It says that despite evidence in early December of human-to-human transmission, Beijing did not confirm this key fact until 20 January.

However, there is little in the document that is not already in the public domain and there is nothing to conclusively support Mr Trump’s claim that the disease originated in a scientific laboratory. It confirms that the Australian government believes that a wet market in Wuhan was the likely origin of the virus.

British security officials have said they are yet to see proof that Covid-19 resulted from scientific experiments.

Media reports in the US have claimed that the Trump administration has been pushing Washington’s intelligence agencies to say that the virus originated in a laboratory. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence in Washington issued an unusual public announcement on Thursday that it was carrying out an investigation into China’s role in the pandemic.

The Daily Telegraph report confirmed that key figures at the Wuhan Institute of Virology previously worked or trained in Australian government laboratories where they conducted research on pathogens in live bats as part of an ongoing partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. According to the document, the team’s work at the Wuhan laboratory involved discovering samples of coronavirus within a cave in Yunnan province and synthesising a bat-derived coronavirus that could not be cured.

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