China to test thousands of blood samples taken in Wuhan in 2019

China will test thousands of blood samples taken in Wuhan before first Covid case in quest for virus’s true origin – as scientists urge Beijing to allow observers to take part amid fresh fears of a cover-up

  • The 200,000 samples were taken in 2019 and have been stored in Wuhan
  • It is hoped they will reveal the first antibodies made by humans against Covid
  • But there are fears foreign experts will be excluded from the secretive tests 

China is finally preparing to test thousands of blood samples from Wuhan taken in the early months of the Covid pandemic to probe the origins of the virus after months of deflection and cover-up.

The World Health Organisation called on the government earlier this year to analyse the key source of 200,000 donations which have been held in the Wuhan Blood Centre since the final months of 2019.

It is hoped the samples will reveal the first antibodies made by humans against the virus and could even reveal who was first infected and where.

But there are fears the tests will not be observed by foreign experts and China could continue attempts to mislead the world about its role in the deadly pandemic.

A Chinese official suggested earlier this year that the tests would be carried out in China by Chinese experts, but Western scientists are urging the WHO to intervene and carry out the probe in a neutral location.

The Chinese Community Party has been repeatedly slammed for its failure to report the early signs of Covid-19 as scientists who first detected it were arrested and silenced and blame was deflected to the US.

China is finally preparing to test up to 200,000 blood samples from Wuhan taken in the early months of the Covid pandemic. Pictured: a box of donated blood is transported by the Wuhan Blood Centre

China then kept evidence from a WHO probe into the virus’s origins, prompting the health body to call for a new investigation with access to raw data after its initial report was lambasted as a politicised white-wash. 

The signals to test the blood samples will be welcomed as a step in the right direction, with investigators hoping they can provide a source of key information that can identify when the virus first crossed into humans.

The samples span 2019 when the outbreak was first detected in Wuhan although there remain doubts over when the virus first emerged.

There is a statutory two-year blood storage limit in case any samples are needed for lawsuits related to the donations.  

That waiting period is soon due to expire for the key months of October and November 2019 when the virus is believed to have entered humans.

Once the two years have passed, testing will be able to take place and preparation is already underway, an official from China’s National Health Commission told CNN.

The samples span 2019 when the outbreak was first detected in Wuhan although there remain doubts over when the virus first emerged amid the lab leak theory 

Maureen Miller, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, said the samples ‘absolutely will contain vital clues’.

But she urged China to allow foreign experts to observe the testing, saying: ‘No one will believe any results that China reports unless there are qualified observers at the very least.’

Liang Wannian, the head of the Chinese team working on the WHO probe, said in July the samples would be tested.

He added that once they have the results, they will be delivered to foreign experts.

The samples have been sealed shut and stored and come from the opening tube of a donor blood pouch. 

Dr William Schaffner from the Vanderbilt University Department of Medicine’s infectious disease division said they offer a ‘fascinating opportunity. You would like to go back to find out exactly during which months this this virus started to leave fingerprints in the human population in China.’

Liang Wannian, the head of the Chinese team working on the WHO probe, said in July the samples would be tested

He suggested they should be transferred to a neutral destination such as Geneva to allow WHO experts to take part in the analysis.

The expert feared that without foreign checks, there would be no way to guarantee ‘the integrity of the blood samples — ensuring they had not been recently created’.

He added that the samples taken might not be representative of the whole population. 

If they were taken from healthy individuals, they may only represent asymptomatic cases of the virus.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it remains to be seen if the world trusts China’s findings from the testing, but it marks an opportunity for the CCP to start bearing responsibility.

China first told the WHO it was treating a pneumonia ‘of unknown origin’ in Wuhan on December 31, 2019, and provided genetic data on the disease on January 5.

But it was not until January 11 that it reported the first death, and took until January 20 to warn the disease was spreading person-to-person.

Wuhan and the surrounding regions were placed into strict lockdown – earning strong praise from the WHO – but by then cases had already spread overseas.

Despite mounting cases, the WHO declined to declare a pandemic on January 31 and instead classified the virus as ‘an outbreak of international concern’. 

It was not until March 11, two days after Italy went into its first full lockdown, that the WHO declared Covid a pandemic. 

The UN body has since been heavily criticised for failing to sound the alarm about Covid earlier, and of uncritically swallowing data and assurances emanating from Beijing – despite its history of covering up disease outbreaks with SARS in 2003.

Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under scrutiny for his ties to Beijing and has begun pushing back on China’s narratives about the pandemic – such as refusing to rule out the lab-leak theory. 

The CCP has also stymied all efforts for independent investigations into how the virus first jumped to humans in epicentre Wuhan. 

The WHO team, which was made up of scientists hand-picked and vetted by China, published its first report in March and could not determine how the virus originated.

It followed a three-week investigation in Wuhan during which the researchers were carefully managed and only given access to certain data.

The investigation was mired in controversy for several reasons, not least the fact its lead scientist was found to have undisclosed ties to the facility at the centre of the ‘lab leak’ theory.

China first reported a ‘pneumonia of unknown origin’ to the WHO on December 31, but anecdotal evidence suggests the virus was spreading in November – and possibly earlier

Since China alerted the world to a mysterious virus circulating in Wuhan in December 2019, a debate has been raging over its true source.

China has repeatedly insisted the virus spilled naturally into humans from bats, with some scientists agreeing Covid most likely had natural origins.

But some say it’s possible the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where researchers were conducting controversial research on the world’s most dangerous pathogens. 

The lab was located just miles away from the wet market which was first identified as the epicentre of the outbreak.

Joe Biden conducted a 90-day review of intelligence and an unclassified report indicated officials still consider both natural transmission and a lab leak as possible theories.

The President said: ‘Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China, yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it.’

China responded in kind by peddling unproven theories that the virus leaked from Fort Detrick, a US lab in Maryland. 

The great cover-up of China: Beijing punished Covid whistleblower, claimed it came from US and ‘lied about death figures’ 

China has lied and covered up key information during virtually every stage of its coronavirus response – from the initial outbreak to the number of cases and deaths, observers, experts and politicians have warned.

Beijing initially tried to cover up the virus by punishing medics who discovered it, denying it could spread person-to-person and delaying a lockdown of affected regions – meaning early opportunities to control the spread were lost.

Then, once the virus began spreading, the Communist Party began censoring public information about it and spread disinformation overseas – including suggesting that US troops could have been the initial carriers.

Prominent politicians have cast doubt on the country’s official cases and deaths figures, with local whistleblowers saying the true tolls are likely to be far higher. 

Initial outbreak

Doctors in China, including Li Wenliang, began reporting the existence of a new type of respiratory infection  similar to SARS in early December 2019.

But rather than publicise the reports and warn the public, Chinese police hauled Wenliang and eight of his colleagues in for questioning.

Wenliang, who would later die from the virus, was forced to sign a document ‘confessing’ that the information he published was false.

Despite the WHO being quick to praise China’s lockdowns, evidence suggests that the country could have acted much quicker.

Dr Li Wenliang, one of the first Chinese medics to report the existence of the new coronavirus, was forced by police to confess to spreading false data. He later died from the virus

Virus samples analysed as early as December 26 suggested a new type of SARS was circulating, the Washington Post reported, but Wuhan was not locked down until January 22 – almost a month later.

Wuhan’s mayor also admitted an error that allowed 5million people to travel out of the city before the lockdown came into place without being checked for the virus, likely helping it to spread. 

Chinese authorities have also been unwilling or unable to identify ‘patient zero’ – or the first person known to have contracted the virus.

While Beijing claims the first infection took place on December 8, researchers have traced the virus back to at least December 1 and anecdotal evidence suggests it was spreading in November.

A lack of information about the first patient has meant scientists are still unclear how the disease made the leap from animals into humans.

A widely-panned WHO report published early in 2021 said the virus likely started in bats, moved into an unknown intermediary animal, and then infected humans.  

Early reports

Chinese authorities initially reported that the virus could not spread person-to-person, despite evidence that it was spreading rapidly through the city of Wuhan including doctors being infected by patients.

This was used as justification for keeping the city of Wuhan operating as normal through a major CCP conference that was held between January 11 and 17, with authorities claiming zero new cases in this period.

China did not confirm human-to-human transmission of the virus until late January, when large parts of Hubei province including Wuhan were put into lockdown. 

Despite reporting the existence of a ‘novel type of pneumonia’ to the World Health Organisation on December 31, Wuhan’s largest newspaper also made no mention of the virus until the week of January 20.

That meant people in the city were not taking precautions such as social distancing to stop it spreading.

It also meant that people had begun travelling for the Lunar New Year holiday, which was due to start on January 24, spreading the virus further. 

Authorities in Beijing were also slow to report the deaths of two doctors from the virus, including one who was killed on January 25 but whose death was not reported by state media until a month later. 

The market was shut on January 1 after dozens of workers there had contracted the disease

Origin of the virus

Despite early admissions that the virus began in the city of Wuhan, China later back-tracked – even going so far as to suggest American troops had brought the infection over after visiting the province.

Lijian Zhao, a prominent official within the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted out the claim on March 12 while providing no evidence to substantiate it.

‘When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals,’ he wrote.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused American military members of bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan

Referencing a military athletics tournament in Wuhan in October, which US troops attended, he wrote: ‘It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!’

In fact, America’s ‘patient zero’ was a man who travelled from China to Washington State on January 15. The case was confirmed by the CDC six days later. 

Zhao has gone on to push a number of other conspiracies suggesting the virus may have originated in other countries such as India or Italy. 

In the case of Italy, he did so by distorting a quote from an Italian doctor who suggested the country’s first cases could have occurred much earlier than originally thought.

Zhao spread the theory in a tweet, while providing no evidence to back it up

Giuseppe Remuzzi said he is investigating strange cases of pneumonia as far back as December and November, months before the virus was known to have spread outside of China.

Chinese state media then widely reported his comments while suggesting that the virus could have originated in Europe.

In fact, Remuzzi says, there can be no doubt it started in Wuhan – but may have spread out of the province and across the world earlier than thought. 

Infection total 

China had reported a total of 96,000 cases of Covid and 4,500 deaths from the virus as-of September 2021 – one of the lowest totals of any major nation.

But serious doubt has been cast over the figures, not least because Beijing often does not count asymptomatic cases – i.e. cases with no symptoms – as part of its totals. 

Symptomatic cases which were not confirmed with a test were also not counted, a move that almost-certainly led to under-reporting of cases in the early stages when kits were scarce. 

Meanwhile foreign governments have heaped scorn on China’s infection reporting cannot be trusted.

Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican senator and former presidential candidate from the US, tweeted that ‘we have NO IDEA how many cases China really has’ after the US infection total passed Beijing’s official figure.

‘Without any doubt it’s significantly more than what they admit to,’ he added.

The UK government has also cast doubt on China’s reporting, with Conservative minister and former Prime Ministerial candidate Michael Gove claiming the Communist Party could not be trusted.

‘Some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this [virus],’ he told the BBC.

Meanwhile sources told the Mail that China’s true infection total could be anything up to 40 times as high as reports had suggested. 

Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican senator, has said that China’s figures cannot be trusted and a far higher than has been reported 

Death total 

Doubt has also been cast on China’s reported death toll from the virus, which currently stands at around 4,500.

Locals in epicenter city Wuhan have been keeping an eye on funeral homes since lockdown restrictions were partly lifted, claiming they have been ‘working around the clock’ to dispose of bodies.

China has reported 3,300 deaths from the virus, but social media users in Wuhan have suggested the toll could be in excess of 42,000

Social media posts estimate that 3,500 urns are being handed out by crematoriums each day, while Caixin reports that one funeral home in the city placed an order for 5,000 urns.

Locals believe that efforts to dispose of the bodies began March 23 and city authorities have said the process will end on or around April 5.

That would mean roughly 42,000 urns handed out in that time frame, ten times the reported figure. 

Chinese aid packages 

As it brought its own coronavirus epidemic under control and as the disease spread across the rest of the world, China attempted to paint itself as a helpful neighbour by sending aid and supplies to countries most in need – such as Italy.

In fact, while the Chinese Red Cross supplied some free equipment to the Italians, the country purchased a large amount of what it received.

Meanwhile officials in Spain said that a batch of coronavirus testing kits bought from China had just 30 per cent reliability – unlike the 80 per cent they were promised.

China has said it is willing to help supply the world with much needed aid and supplies, but has been accused of hoarding protective equipment and selling test kits that don’t work

China is also the world’s largest manufacturer of disposable masks of the kind being worn to slow the spread of the virus by people while out in public.

But as the disease began gathering speed in the country in January, China began limiting exports of the masks while also buying up supplies from other countries, the New York Times reported.

As well as halting virtually all exports of masks, China also bought up some 56million masks and respirators from overseas while fears of a pandemic were still far off.

Despite reports from US mask manufacturers of factories in Shanghai being effectively nationalised, China denies it has any such policy in place and has said it is ‘willing to strengthen international cooperation’ on the issue. 

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