A CHINESE lab at the centre of a storm over the origins of Covid reportedly designed secret cages for breeding bats for virus experiments.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was found to have filed patents for "bat rearing cages" and "artificial breeding" systems in the months before the coronavirus first emerged last December.
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WIV has been subject to international scrutiny as it was known to have been carrying out experiments on bat coronaviruses – and is located just miles from Covid's ground zero.
And the allegations continue despite the World Health Organisation appearing to exonerate the lab in its findings after a mission to Wuhan – which since been branded a "whitewash".
The new revelations about the bat cages raises more questions about the work the Chinese scientists – lead by Dr Shi Zhengli, known as Batwoman – were doing in the months leading up to the pandemic.
It had previously been denied that WIV was keeping any live bats on site – but an online profile of the lab reportedly claimed it has capacity to keep 12 bat cages.
WIV scientists filed patents in June 2018 and October 2020 for the cages andmethods for breeding of bats, which are believed to be the natural reservoir of Covid.
The first patent was filed for "bat reading cages" which would be "‘capable of healthy growth and breeding under artificial conditions", reports the Mail on Sunday.
And the second patent relates to a method of "artificially breeding" of wild bats, and in the document it describes bats being "artificially" infected with coronaviruses.
It explains it is hoped the breeding scheme will allow them to create a "brand-new model experimental animal for scientific research".
The patents raise yet further questions about the work of the shadowy lab which has been accused by the US of having links to the Chinese military.
It comes as the White House said it has "deep concerns" that the Chinese government may have interfered with WHO's investigation into the origins of Covid.
WHO investigator Peter Daszak, who has longstanding links with WIV, had previously claimed no live bats were being kept by the lab.
Last April, he said: "All bats are released back to their cave site after sampling. It’s a conservation measure and is much safer in terms of disease spread than killing them or trying to keep them in a lab."
In December, he appeared to repeat the claim by stating labs he had worked with "DO NOT have live or dead bats in them. There is no evidence anywhere that this happened".
Daszak had been a member of the ten-person WHO team who swung its weight behind the Chinese government's effort to deflect blame over the origins with the virus.
The team all but ruled out the lab leak, suggested the virus may have come from outside of China, and appeared to place their focus on claims the virus may have come from frozen food.
And then just days later, WHO investigator Dominic Dwyer backtracked as he said it likely did start in China, and later claimed the Communist Party authorities refused to hand over raw data.
He said: "Why that doesn't happen, I couldn't comment. Whether it's political or time or it's difficult .
"But whether there are any other reasons why the data isn't available, I don't know. One would only speculate."
The WHO mission was tightly controlled and stage managed by China – and even saw the scientists visits a propaganda museum celebrating Wuhan's fight against Covid.
The organisation itself is also facing questions about how it handled the early days of the pandemic, being accused by former US President Donald Trump of being "China-centric".
What do we know about the Wuhan Institure of Virology?
THE WUHAN Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in all of China – and can be found right at the heart of the origins of the global pandemic.
Various theories have been swirling about the lab, which is headed up by Chinese scientist Dr Shi Zhengli, known as “Bat Woman”.
Most scientists do not believe the virus leaked from the lab, and the lab itself has categorically denied the claims.
The lab specialised in bat-borne viruses and had been carrying out experiences on them since 2015.
Airlocks, full body suits, and chemical showers are required before entering and leaving the lab – the first in China to be accredited with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4).
BSL-4 labs are the only places in the world where scientists can study diseases that have no cure.
Scientists from the lab even tested mysterious
virus which killed three miners 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province back in 2012.
It has been suggested this fatal mystery bug may have been the true origin of Covid-19.
Experts at the lab also engineered a new type of hybrid 'super-virus' that can infect humans in 2015, according to medical journal Nature Medicine
Despite fears surrounding the research, the study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to humans.
There is no suggestion the facility's 2015 work is linked to the pandemic.
The lab was also recruiting new scientists to probe coronaviruses in bats just seven days before the outbreak.
China has began tightening security around its biolabs with President Xi Jinping saying it was a “national security” issue to improve scientific safety at a meeting last February.
MPs have also been pressuring the British government to investigate after a top US official revealed the Trump White House considered a leak the "most credible" origin of the virus.
And last month, new docs released by the US revealed scientists in Wuhan fell ill with Covid-like symptoms in late 2019 – months before the pandemic began to ravage the world.
Documents already revealed Beijing downplayed the bug to "protect its image", and there have been repeated allegations that China has manipulated its death and case figures.
Meanwhile, some 300 coronavirus studies by the Wuhan lab have been erased, raising more questions over China's attempts to stall investigators.
China has since mostly returned to normal – not recording any significant Covid outbreaks since last March.
After Tuesday’s three hour press conference, Tobias Ellwood MP, chair of Defence committee, told The Sun Online: "This is a complete whitewash.
"Given the global economic devastation and death toll this pandemic has caused – never again should a country responsible for an outbreak be allowed to hinder an international investigation for a full 12 months."
The Communist Party-regime has long been accused of covering up the pandemic's origins – and has been continuing to attempt to deflect blame.
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