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A research dossier compiled by the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance, that reportedly concludes China intentionally hid or destroyed evidence of the coronavirus pandemic, is consistent with U.S. findings about the origins of the outbreak so far, senior U.S. officials told Fox News on Saturday.
The 15-page document from the intelligence agencies of the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, was obtained by Australia’s Saturday Telegraph newspaper and finds that China’s secrecy amounted to an “assault on international transparency.”
The dossier, which is likely to further increase pressure on the Chinese government to explain its actions and early statements, points to the initial denial by the government that the virus could be transmitted between humans, the silencing of doctors, destruction of evidence, and a refusal to provide samples to scientists working on a vaccine.
While U.S. intelligence is not confirming the existence of the 15-page document, a senior official told Fox that reports of the document aligns with U.S. intelligence that China knew the spread between humans earlier than it said, that it knew it was a novel coronavirus earlier than it said and that it was spread wider than they reported to the international community in the first weeks of the outbreak.
But there are some exceptions. In particular, Australia believes the virus originated in a wet market, as the Chinese have claimed. However, the U.S. intelligence community has not yet determined this and is still leaning away from that theory.
Fox News first reported last month that there is increasing confidence from U.S. officials that the virus likely escaped from the lab in Wuhan, where the naturally-occurring strain was being studied not as a bioweapon but as part of a Chinese effort to show that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than those of the U.S. This would be at odds with claims the outbreak originated at a nearby wet market. The U.S. is investigating the matter.
President Trump said Thursday that he’s seen evidence suggesting the virus came from a lab after Fox News and others asked if he knew of anything that gave him confidence that the outbreak originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
A senior intelligence source told Fox News on Saturday that most, as many as 70-75 percent, of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies believe it came from a laboratory but the remaining agencies cannot yet agree as there is not a “smoking gun.”
The source said that the agencies have come down to two potential origins for the accident – animal-human transmission, or a mistake in the lab, but there is evidence of both options with most leaning toward the laboratory explanation — although both scenarios are attributable to mistakes.
The source told Fox that the reports show “how duplicitous the Chinese have been” in regard to information about the origins and spread of the virus and that “the impact of their secrecy has really shaken our allies.”
“Everyone is furious with the Chinese,” the source said,
The new “Five Eyes” dossier finds that China began censoring news of the virus on search engines and social media beginning Dec. 31, deleting terms including “SARS variation,” “Wuhan Seafood market” and “Wuhan Unknown Pneumonia.”
Three days later, on Jan. 3, China’s National Health Commission ordered virus samples to be either moved to designated testing facilities or destroyed, while simultaneously issuing a “no-publication order” related to the disease.
The Saturday Telegraph report includes a timeline of Chinese obfuscation. On Jan. 5, for example, Wuhan’s Municipal Health Commission stopped releasing daily updates on the number of new cases and would not resume them for 13 days. On Jan. 10, Wang Guanga, a respiratory specialist at Peking University First Hospital who had been investigating the outbreak, said it was “under control” and largely a “mild condition.” (Wang himself would disclose 12 days later that he had been infected with the virus.)
Two days later, on Jan. 12, a Shanghai professor’s lab was closed down after it shared data on the virus’ genetic sequence with the outside world. On Jan. 24, Chinese officials stopped the Wuhan Institute of Virology from sharing virus samples with a lab at the University of Texas.
The dossier also concludes that Chinese authorities denied that the virus could be spread between humans until Jan. 20, “despite evidence of human-human transmission from early December.”
The file is similarly critical about the World Health Organization (WHO), stating that it toed the Chinese line about human-to-human transmission despite the fact that “officials in Taiwan raised concerns as early as December 31, as did experts in Hong Kong on January 4.”
Fox News reported last month that the WHO — which President Trump paused funding to last month over its role in the crisis — was either complicit in the coverup, or looked the other way. The WHO and China have denied any wrongdoing.
The dossier goes on to state that throughout February, “Beijing [pressed] the U.S., Italy, India, Australia, Southeast Asian neighbours [sic] and others not to protect themselves via travel restrictions, even as [China] impose[d] severe restrictions at home.”
At the same time, the file states: “Millions of people [left] Wuhan after the outbreak and before Beijing lock[ed] down the city on January 23.”
On Friday, WHO officials said that it was assured that the virus is “natural in origin.”
“We have listened again and again to numerous scientists who have looked at the sequence and looked at the virus and we are assured that this virus is natural in origin,” Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press conference when asked about the virus’ origins.
“What is important is that we establish what that natural host for this virus is, and the primary purpose of doing that is to ensure we understand the virus more, we understand the animal-human interface and we understand how the animal-human species barrier was breached,” he said.
Fox News’ Bret Baier, Nick Givas and Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report