On January 15, 2021, the United States Department of State (DOS) released a fact sheet indicating that COVID-19 first emerged in the fall of 2019 at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As of January 22, that sheet has been removed from the DOS website, and can only be found on the press page of the US Embassy in Lebanon. This document confirms much of what The Intelligence Ledger and other news outlets have reported on since March of 2020, and offers forth a possible conclusion the virus’s origin.
Text of Fact Sheet
As the State Department has taken steps to limit the fact sheet's spread, The Intelligence Ledger would be remiss if it did not include the text of the original document here.
On May 2, 2020, Australia’s Daily Telegraph released the contents of a classified 15-page research document produced by the Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance comprising the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. In it, analysts indicate that the government in Beijing attempted to cover-up news of the virus by suppressing medical professionals, destroying evidence of COVID-19 in laboratories, and refusing to provide live samples of the virus to international scientists.
COVID-19 first caught the world's attention in Wuhan, China. On December 30, 2019, Dr. Li Wenliang, a physician in Wuhan, posted in a private WeChat group, "7 confirmed cases of SARS were reported from Huanan Seafood Market." He further wrote, "the latest news is, it has been confirmed that they are coronavirus infections, but the exact virus strain is being subtyped." After his post was leaked in public forums, it gained widespread attention across China, and eventually, the world. (For more information on the timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to read Lies of the Dragon.)
Although Dr. Wenliang was correct in reporting that the unknown virus was a form coronavirus, he may have been incorrect in reporting the pathogen's location of origin. The leaked Five Eyes intelligence report, which has yet to be released in its entirety, argues that the virus may have been accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a well known research facility for virology.
Specifically, the report points to research conducted by virologist Shi Zhengli, and notes that samples of coronavirus collected by her team from a cave in China's Yunnan province prior to the outbreak has a strikingly similar genetic makeup to COVID-19. In fact, at least one of the roughly fifty virus samples taken by Dr. Shi is 96% genetic match to COVID-19.
The State Department release from January 15, 2021 points to many of these facts, and also notes that Beijing has been unusually strict in restricting World Health Organization (WHO) investigators access. In fact, the team investigating the outbreak of the 2020 outbreak were instructed by Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the head of WHO, specifically not to research the Wuhan Institute of Virology due to political pressure from China. As such, The Intelligence Ledger can not state definitively that COVID-19 did not emerge from the WIV.