Story by Nick Allen

US tax dollars paid for “gain-of-function” research that caused the “greatest pandemic our world has seen”, the former head of America’s national public health agency told Congress.

Dr Robert Redfield was director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention at the start of the pandemic and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

He told a Congressional committee that “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been funded in part by the US government and that the virus “looked engineered”.

Dr Redfield also said his initial analysis that the pandemic resulted from a laboratory leak had been “squashed” early on.

The virologist said he was excluded from a phone call on the origins of the pandemic in February 2020 by Dr Anthony Fauci and others, because they “wanted a single narrative” and he had a “different view”.

His own analysis then, which has not changed, was that it was “not scientifically plausible” for the virus to have jumped from bats to humans and it was more likely the pandemic started with a leak from the Wuhan laboratory.

He said the laboratory was “absolutely” involved in gain-of-function research – work that could enhance the lethality or transmissibility of a virus.

‘Wait a second, this isn’t natural’

Dr Redfield added: “I think there’s no doubt NIH [the National Institutes of Health] was funding gain-of-function research.”

The NIH is America’s medical research agency.

Dr Redfield said colleagues who supported such work did so in “good faith” because they believed it would lead to “potential benefit”, but he disagreed.

One congresswoman asked Dr Redfield if it was likely that “American taxpayer dollars funded the gain-of-function research that created this virus”.

He replied: “I think it did. Not only from NIH, but from the State Department, USAID and DOD [Defence Department].”

The NIH has denied that its funding supported gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab.

Asked if gain-of-function research had ever stopped a pandemic, he said: “No, on the contrary, I think it probably caused the greatest pandemic our world has seen.”

Dr Redfield said when he saw the virus “I immediately said: ‘Wait a second, this isn’t natural.’”

He said: “Based on my initial analysis of the data, I came to believe, and I still believe today, that it indicates that Covid-19 more likely was the result of an accidental lab leak than a result of a natural spillover event.

“It’s my opinion that we should call for a moratorium on gain-of-function research until we have a broader debate.”

‘They squashed debate’

He went on to describe how his view was dismissed at the start of the pandemic.

Dr Redfield said: “I also expressed as a clinical virologist that I felt it was not scientifically plausible that this virus went from a bat to humans.”

Excluding him from the call in February 2020 had been “antithetical to science”, he said. 

“Science has debate and they squashed debate,” he added.

“It was told to me they wanted a single narrative and I had a different point of view.”

Dr Redfield said three things had happened in September 2019 at the Wuhan laboratory which pointed to the leak.

He said: “One is they deleted the sequences. It was highly irregular. Researchers don’t like to do that.

“Second, they changed the command and control from civilian to military. Highly unusual.

“Third, and this is really telling, they let a contractor redo the ventilation systems in that laboratory.

“So, I think there was strong evidence a significant event happened in that lab in September [2019].”

He added: “It’s now been declassified. I’m sure there’s more classified information around it.”

He went on: “We’ve got to tell the truth. When you don’t tell the truth, you got a problem.

“I think if you go back, there were many times when public health officials packaged the message to what they wanted to say, but it wasn’t necessarily truthful.

“You have to have the courage as a public health official to say ‘I don’t know’ when you don’t know.”

Dr Fauci was ‘trying to cover his backside’

Jim Jordan, a Republican congressman on the sub-committee, said: “What was Dr Fauci doing? He was trying to cover his backside, and everybody knows it. And that’s the part that ticks us off.

“US tax dollars went to a lab in China, a lab that was not up to code, a lab that was doing gain-of-function research, and that’s where this thing most definitely came from.”

By don

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