10:23 GMT25 July 2021
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    In October 2019, nearly 10,000 foreign contestants from more than 100 countries competed in what some call the "military Olympics," two months before Beijing confirmed it was treating patients with an "unknown pneumonia," which later turned into a pandemic and became known as COVID-19.

    US Congress is seeking a probe into the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China following several athletes' claims of coronavirus-like symptoms and the characterization of Wuhan as a "ghost town" weeks before Chinese authorities reported the first case of the disease, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

    The city of Wuhan is at the focus of growing rumors and conspiracy theories that the virus was leaked from a virology lab and that the Chinese authorities allegedly had been hiding the outbreak of the novel coronavirus for as long as possible, which has prompted new calls for US investigators to look into reports that athletes became ill.

    As the pandemic expanded around the globe in early 2020, athletes from a number of nations, including France, Germany, Italy, and Luxembourg, publicly said that they had experienced some severe symptoms back in China or after they returned home, which, along with their relatives experiencing the same symptoms shortly after, convinced participants in the Wuhan Games that they had contracted COVID-19.

    An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory (L) at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 17, 2020
    © AFP 2021 / HECTOR RETAMAL
    An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory (L) at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 17, 2020

    "One athlete from Luxembourg reported “nearly empty” streets in Wuhan during the games, recalling, "It was a ghost town," and "There were rumors that the government warned the inhabitants not to go out." Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher wrote to the Pentagon in a letter obtained by the outlet. "While anecdotal, these reports raise important questions about the timeline of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan."

    According to the report, the Pentagon is unaware of any coronavirus infections among US personnel competing in the 2019 World Military Games. The Defense Department said there is no indication that US military members were sick before the US government imposed travel limits in early 2020.

    Chinese authorities have vehemently denied all accusations made by the US, with some officials blaming the infection on American athletes for bringing it to Wuhan. Chinese diplomats even said that the virus may have been introduced to Wuhan by US Army troops from Fort Detrick in Maryland, where the Army's bioresearch department is situated.

    ​On Wednesday, media reported that the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis has called on US top infections specialist and chief medical advisor to the president Dr. Anthony Fauci, among many others, to participate in the panel dedicated to the origins of COVID-19 

    Ironically, Fauci's reputation among Democrats as an untouchable expert on the ongoing pandemic who denied and criticized former President's Donald Trump's claims that the COVID-19 was created in a lab was tarnished after a massive publication of emails that revealed, among other things, that the expert privately admitted that lab origin was a possibility.
    Commuters wearing protective face masks walk at a train station, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Tokyo
    © REUTERS / STRINGER
    Commuters wearing protective face masks walk at a train station, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Tokyo

    Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Democrats have ridiculed Trump's claims that the virus likely originated in the Wuhan laboratory. However, the Biden administration that succeeded him, for reasons that are not completely obvious, recently resumed the rhetoric of its predecessor, pledging to get to the bottom of the origin of the virus.

    In late May, Joe Biden issued an order for his intelligence services to "redouble their efforts" to investigate the two opposing views concerning the pandemic's origins, which is a random viral spillover in nature or an accident at one of the Chinese labs studying bat coronaviruses in Wuhan.

    Last month, media reported that three staff members at the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital treatment for COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, potentially upending the timeline of the pandemic. The Chinese government denied the reports. 

    In late March, the World Health Organization's mission to Wuhan, which also visited the now-famous lab, deemed the possibility of the virus escaping from the lab as "extremely unlikely." Direct zoonotic transmission to humans (possible to likely), introduction through an intermediate host followed by spillover (likely to very likely), and introduction through the cold food chain were also investigated by the scientists, although the concluding report did not establish the final theory of the origin of the virus.

    COVID-19 was initially detected at the wet market in China's Wuhan at the beginning of December 2019. In January last year, Beijing acknowledged that the sickness may be transmitted from person to person, and by March 11 that year the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

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    Wuhan, China, coronavirus, COVID-19, congressional report, Congressional probe, Congressmen, US Congress, US Congress, congress, US
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