House Foreign Affairs Republicans concluded the World Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019 was “one of the earliest super spreader events” during the pandemic, with their new report contending COVID-19 escaped from a Wuhan lab in late August or early September 2019 — with China covering it up for months.
"When they realized what happened, Chinese Communist Party officials and scientists at the WIV began frantically covering up the leak," said Republican Rep. Michael McCaul. "But their coverup was too late — the virus was already spreading throughout the megacity of Wuhan."
McCaul added: "Within a month, satellite images show a significant uptick in the number of people at hospitals around the WIV with symptoms similar to COVID-19. At the same time, athletes at the Military World Games became sick with symptoms similar to COVID-19. Some of them carried the virus back to their home countries — creating one of the earliest super spreader events in the world, and explaining how countries who participated in the games had reported cases as early as November 2019.”
The new report said its lab leak evidence included “athletes at the Military World Games held in Wuhan in October 2019 who became sick with symptoms similar to COVID-19 both while in Wuhan and also shortly after.”
The GOP report zeroed in on Wuhan, which was picked to host the 7th International Military Sports Council Military World Games in October 2019, during which “more than 9,000 military personnel from over 100 countries stayed in Wuhan in accommodations at an athletes village built specifically for the games.”
The Chinese state-run China Internet Information Center said in October 2019 there were athletes from 109 countries. China’s Organizing Committee of the 7th International Military Sports Council proclaimed that “the charm of sports will put Wuhan in global spotlight.”
The GOP report noted a since-deleted version of the competition’s website listed more than 30 venues for the games across Wuhan. One athlete from Luxembourg described Wuhan as a “ghost town” and recalled having his temperature taken upon arriving at the city’s airport, saying, “There were rumors that the government warned the inhabitants not to go out.” The report said, "Similar claims about COVID-19 like symptoms have been made by athletes from Germany, France, Italy, and Sweden.”
A military athlete from Canada said that on the return flight, dozens of athletes “were sick with symptoms ranging from coughs to diarrhea.” A German athlete said, “After a few days, some athletes from my team got ill … I got sick in the last two days … Either it was a very bad cold or COVID-19. I think it was COVID-19.”
An Italian athlete said all the athletes in his Wuhan apartment fell ill with “symptoms that looked like those of COVID-19.”
The GOP committee members put together a map visualizing the competition venues in black, the Wuhan lab in red, and the hospitals with early cases in blue, with green figures representing the competition venues for athletes who believe they contracted COVID-19 in Wuhan.
Wuhan Map House Foreign Affairs GOP
The Republicans noted that “four countries who sent delegations” to the Wuhan games “have now confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 cases within their borders in November and December 2019” — Italy, Brazil, Sweden, and France — with some athletes complaining of COVID-like symptoms in Wuhan.
“The virus was spread throughout central Wuhan, likely via the Wuhan Metro … In order to prevent national embarrassment, the decision was made to allow the 2019 Military World Games to continue. No spectators were allowed to attend the games, but international athletes and some of the 236,000 volunteers still become infected, spreading the virus in the city,” the GOP report contended. “Dozens of athletes fall ill with symptoms. Since COVID-19 can infect humans without causing symptoms, an untold number of athletes and volunteers become infected, but are asymptomatic and unaware they are infectious. The athletes return to their home countries in late October, carrying SARS-CoV-2 across the world.”
The GOP report said that “the PRC’s efforts to obfuscate the origins of COVID-19 were not limited to destroying samples and silencing doctors, but featured a sustained disinformation campaign as well.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian and others have pushed baseless claims about the U.S. military, including Maryland's Fort Detrick, for over a year.
Zhao shared an article in March 2020 from Global Research, known for spreading conspiracy theories, tweeting: “COVID-19: Further Evidence that the Virus Originated in the U.S.” Zhao tweeted, “It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”
Zhao and others revived the claims earlier this year as the WHO-China COVID-19 report was made public.
Then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in March 2020 China's claims were "completely absurd.” A State Department spokesperson told the Washington Examiner this April that “the United States condemns the PRC’s false, baseless, and unscientific claims.”
A Pentagon spokesperson said it was a “myth” that “U.S. service members visiting China were the source of the coronavirus outbreak.”
Zhao also tweeted in March 2020, “If #COVID19 began last September, & U.S. has been lack of testing ability, how many would have been infected? U.S. should find out when patient zero appeared.”
The GOP report emphasized, “If the CCP realized an investigation would show an uptick in visits of patients with symptoms similar to COVID-19 in September, October, and November of 2019, this would likely be the actions they would take to coverup the source of those illnesses.”
The GOP added: “To further drive this narrative, CCP-controlled media outlets accused Maatje Benassi, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, as being ‘patient zero.’ Benassi competed at the Military World Games without becoming ill … Two weeks after Zhao tweeted that the U.S. army brought the virus to Wuhan, the Global Times amplified the narrative.”
Benassi said last year the baseless claims were "like waking up from a bad dream and going into a nightmare day after day.”
Trump CDC Director Robert Redfield said COVID-19 “most likely” originated at the Wuhan lab and that it spread in the Chinese city in September or October 2019.
The WHO-China joint report said the Chinese Epidemiology Group, which provided information on the Wuhan games, found “no appreciable signals of clusters of fever or severe respiratory disease requiring hospitalization were identified."
Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin a letter seeking answers in June, saying, “Aware that the cluster of illnesses associated with the World Military Games casts doubt upon the Chinese Communist Party’s official timeline, Chinese government officials such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian have sought to deflect blame onto the U.S.”
GOP Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra for answers in June.
When Esper was asked about the Wuhan games in April 2020, he replied, “I’m not aware of what you’re talking about.”
Gen. Mark Milley also said, “Yeah, I’m not.”
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Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy