The Wuhan Institute of Virology deleted public databases containing information on at least 16,000 virus samples in September 2019, but the World Health Organization did not even request to review the data as part of their investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China in early 2021.
The sole U.S. member of the WHO team, EcoHealth Alliance president Dr. Peter Daszak, revealed during a panel discussion Wednesday that they did not request to see the deleted WIV databases because he personally vouched for the lab, saying the data did not contain relevant information on the pandemic’s origins.
“We did not ask to see the data,” Daszak said during a panel discussion organized by Chatham House. “A lot of this work is work that has been conducted with EcoHealth Alliance. I’m also part of those data and we do basically know what’s in those databases … I got to talk with both sides about the work we’ve done with Wuhan Institute of Virology and explained what’s there.”
“There is no evidence of viruses closer to SARS-CoV-2 than RaTG13 in those databases,” Daszak said, referring to a bat coronavirus studied by the WIV prior to the pandemic that is 96.2% similar to the virus that causes COVID-19.
Earlier in the discussion, Daszak said his work is guided by the scientific process, which, according to Dazsak, “involves looking at data, analyzing it, coming to conclusions about what it means and publishing it and making it public.”
Daszak said it was “absolutely reasonable” that the WIV took the databases down because he said he was told by his longtime colleague and the WIV’s lead Chinese researcher, Shi Zhengli, that there were “hacking attempts on it. About 3,000 hacking attempts.”
U.S. intelligence officials believe it is suspicious that the WIV refuses to allow an outside examination of its deleted databases, according to NBC News.
Daszak did not respond to a request for comment.
Daszak’s prior work and financial history with the WIV, along with his role in organizing a public relations campaign in early 2020 to paint the theory that COVID-19 could have accidentally leaked from the lab as a “conspiracy,” has been described as a major conflict of interest by U.S.-based epidemiologists and medical groups.
EcoHealth Alliance, Daszak’s nonprofit group, routed $600,000 in taxpayer funds to the WIV in form of subgrants as part of a project to study bat-based coronaviruses in China, funding that was terminated by the National Institutes of Health in May 2020.
From the onset of the pandemic, Daszak has denied he has a conflict of interest with the WIV, a claim that Rutgers University professor of chemical biology Richard H. Ebright said in April was a “brazen lie.”
“‘I have no conflicts of interest,’ said Peter Daszak”
It would be hard to imagine a more brazen lie.
— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) April 24, 2020
The WHO has defended its decision to appoint Daszak to the investigation of its COVID-9 origins despite accusations that his involvement mires the probe with major conflict of interests.
The WHO investigative panel shelved plans last week to release an interim report detailing how it concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” that COVID-19 could have accidentally leaked from the WIV. It now says that a full report on the investigation will be released “in coming weeks.”
Despite working at the onset of the pandemic to suppress debate on the lab leak theory, Daszak said former White House strategist Steve Bannon and the Chinese Falun Gong religious sect, which financially backs the Epoch Times newspaper and faces persecution from the Chinese Communist Party, are the ones responsible for China’s decision to block an outside investigation of the pandemic’s origins for over a year after the initial outbreak.
“I’ve seen incredible efforts from everything from Falun Gong to … Steve Bannon’s group pushing the conspiracy theories around China,” Daszak said during Wednesday’s panel discussion. “It’s useful to them. They’re funding it and pushing it and science has been to some extent caught up in that to other instances absolutely crushed by it.”
“We’ve not had access to work in China on the origins for the last 12 months, which is ironic because we could have been on the ground there working with our Chinese colleagues and by now we could have found some really important answers,” he said. “The rhetoric has held that up.”