With Republicans probing the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration has decided to suspend U.S. funding for the Chinese lab that likely leaked the virus.
According to a Health and Human Services memo, which the House's coronavirus subcommittee made public on Tuesday, the Wuhan Institute of Virology "likely violated" U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) protocols, a conclusion that the memo calls "undisputed."
"There is risk that [the Wuhan institute] not only previously violated, but is currently violating, and will continue to violate, protocols of the NIH on biosafety," the memo says. "The immediate suspension of [the institute] is necessary to mitigate any potential public health risk."
The memo temporarily suspends funding for the institute and proposes a permanent ban.
House Republicans have zeroed in on a leak from the Wuhan Institute as the most likely cause of the pandemic—a conclusion supported by multiple government officials and agencies, including former CDC director Robert Redfield, the Department of Energy, and the FBI.
Under former White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci, an NIH subagency doled out at least $600,000 for researching bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab through a group called EcoHealth Alliance. As part of that research, EcoHealth boosted coronaviruses to be more infectious than their natural counterparts, according to a January inspector general's report. The report also revealed that Fauci's agency made egregious errors in funding and overseeing the research.
While the recent HHS memo names EcoHealth's "material non-compliance with terms and conditions" of the bat coronavirus grant as a reason for banning Wuhan funding, it does not affect funding for EcoHealth, which the Biden administration in May decided to resume.
As his agency funded the Wuhan research, Fauci in the early days of the pandemic repeatedly pooh-poohed the lab-leak theory. Fauci went so far as to commission a report to dismiss it and then cited the report as evidence against the theory.
The Wuhan Institute has 30 days to respond to the HHS memo.