China’s Fault—No Matter How You Slice It, Says Senator Amid COVID-19 Debate

Tomas Ragma /
Tomas Ragma /

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) isn’t mincing words: No matter how COVID-19 started, the blame squarely lies with the Chinese regime. Romney declared this on June 18 during a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing that examined the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.

“Whether it came from a wet market or the Wuhan lab, China is to blame. Both are in China,” Romney stated. He emphasized that China should have taken responsibility and allowed full disclosure.

Since the virus first appeared in Wuhan and became a global pandemic, Beijing has consistently shirked responsibility, redirecting attention worldwide. China has silenced whistleblowers and withheld complete data from international investigators, including the World Health Organization, all while claiming to be “open and transparent.”

Questions persist about the virus’s presence in Wuhan before the pandemic. For how long was it circulating undetected? This remains to be seen due to China’s lack of cooperation.

Dr. Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University, lamented the gaps in information from China. “There are many things we’re missing that we would like to get from the Chinese government,” he said.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology is central to lab leak suspicions. Experts are eager to review the lab’s research records, monitor researchers’ health, and check biocontainment equipment maintenance logs to find any signs of accidents or a potential lab escape.

Gregory Koblentz, director of the biodefense graduate program at George Mason University, criticized the Chinese government’s opacity, which frustrates efforts to explore the natural zoonotic spillover and lab accident theories.

While Dr. Garry and Mr. Koblentz favor a natural origin theory, Dr. Steven Quay, founder of Atossa Therapeutics, highlighted circumstantial evidence raising suspicions about a lab origin. He noted the Wuhan lab’s military connections, the removal of the lab’s virus sequence database in September 2019, and shipments of dangerous pathogens to the lab before the outbreak.

Dr. Quay pointed out unique features in the COVID-19 virus genome, such as the furin cleavage site in its spike protein, contributing to the virus’s high infectivity. Some U.S. scientists proposed experimenting with this feature on coronavirus genomes 2018 in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute. Dr. Quay also mentioned the unusual and synthetic nature of the virus’s accessory proteins, arguing that the chances of SARS-CoV-2 originating from nature are “one in a billion.”

With no definitive proof of the virus’s origin, lawmakers and witnesses agreed that stricter regulations are needed over gain-of-function research, which involves manipulating pathogens to enhance their pandemic potential. Dr. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, stressed the need for regulation with the force of law, describing the current oversight as nearly non-existent.

Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) called for a “9/11-style commission” to investigate the matter. He emphasized the importance of an independent inquiry away from political influences in Washington, D.C., to prevent future pandemics.

“The most important thing we’re doing is trying to prevent this from happening again,” Marshall asserted.