The federal government has implemented a 10-year ban on China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, preventing it from receiving any funding from the Health and Human Services Department.
Wuhan has been the subject of speculation regarding the origins of the coronavirus and was found to have conducted risky research using U.S. taxpayer money.
HHS gave the lab an opportunity to provide an explanation, but it ignored the inquiries. As a result, HHS has finalized the ban, which is three times longer than the typical punishment.
Republicans have expressed their approval of the ban, stating that it is a necessary step in the right direction. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, emphasized the lab’s history of conducting dangerous gain-of-function research at inadequate biosafety levels.
Wenstrup also pointed out that U.S. officials were aware of the risky research before the COVID-19 outbreak but failed to take appropriate action.
The exact origins of the virus, which emerged in China in 2019, are still debated. One theory suggests natural exposure to an animal, while another focuses on the lab, which was conducting research on coronaviruses using U.S. funding.
According to the terms of the HHS grant, the level of virus activity in the lab was not supposed to exceed a certain threshold. U.S. officials determined that the research may have crossed this line.
The U.S. official handling the case stated that the lab’s refusal to acknowledge or provide information about the violation constitutes an aggravating factor. As a result, HHS issued a 10-year ban, whereas the standard penalty for violating grant terms is a three-year bar.
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