The Trump administration cut a $200 million program that trains scientists in China and other foreign countries to detect viruses that could become pandemics two months before the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Wuhan, China, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The program was launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2009 and reportedly supported staff in the Chinese lab that eventually identified the new coronavirus. The initiative, dubbed Predict, was launched in response to the 2005 ”bird flu” outbreak.
According to the Times, USAID on Wednesday gave a $2.26 million grant to help labs around the world control the virus.
“Look at the name: Our efforts were to predict this before it happens. That’s the part of the program that was exciting — and that’s the part I’m worried about,” Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a key player in the program, told the Times.
Dennis Carroll, a scientist who led USAID’s emerging threats division and retired around the time Predict was cut, told The New York Times in January that the program “essentially collapsed into hibernation.”
Lawmakers have pointed out that the program was cut right at the cusp of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Addressing and preventing the spread of coronavirus and potential pandemic disease outbreaks is a serious matter that requires adequate resources for and cooperation between experts throughout the federal government,” Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats narrow scope of IRS proposal amid GOP attacks Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter FDA proposes rule to offer over-the-counter hearing aids MORE (D-Mass.) wrote in a letter to USAID in January.