Wuhan lab boss denies coronavirus link, says virus 'cannot be man-made'

In an interview with state media published weekend, Yuan Zhiming, director of Wuhan laboratory, said that “there’s no way this virus came from us.”
April 20, 2020 | 07:56
wuhan lab boss denies coronavirus link says virus cannot be man made
An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory (center) at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. AFP via Getty Images

China has come under increasing pressure over transparency in its handling of the pandemic, with the U.S. probing whether the virus actually originated in a virology institute with a high-security biosafety laboratory.

Last week the United States has brought the rumors into the mainstream, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying U.S. officials are doing a “full investigation” into how the virus “got out into the world.”

Reports in The Washington Post and Fox News have both quoted anonymous sources who voiced concern that the virus may have come — accidentally — from the facility.

President Trump on Saturday said his administration was looking into reports that the novel coronavirus "escaped" from a Wuhan laboratory before it spread to the world.

"We're looking at it, a lot of people are looking at it. It seems to make sense," Trump told the media when asked if there was an investigation into whether the coronavirus disease escaped from a lab in China's COVID-19 ground-zero city of Wuhan.

More than 2.3 million people worldwide -- including more than 742,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise.

The United States reached another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, topping 40,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Sunday afternoon, the figure was at 40.585, while the world fatalities connected to the coronavirus is now at 164,716.

The total number of confirmed cases worldwide was at 2,375,443 Sunday afternoon, with the United States at 742,442, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins.

Chinese scientists have said the virus likely jumped from an animal to humans in a market that sold wildlife.

But the existence of the facility has fueled conspiracy theories that the germ spread from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, specifically its P4 laboratory which is equipped to handle dangerous viruses.

None of his staff had been infected, he told the English-language state broadcaster CGTN, adding the “whole institute is carrying out research in different areas related to the coronavirus.”

The institute had already dismissed the theory in February, saying it had shared information about the pathogen with the World Health Organization in early January.

The director of a maximum-security laboratory in China’s coronavirus ground-zero city of Wuhan has rejected claims that it could be the source of the outbreak, calling it “impossible.”

The virus "cannot be man made", Yuan said, noting that there is no evidence to prove that COVID-19 is artificial.

"Besides some scientists believe that to synthesise a virus requires extraordinary intelligence and workload. So never believed that we humans have the capability at this time to create such a virus," he said.

Yuan said after the virus broke out, his institute shared the genome sequence of COVID-19 and the latest research on the animal model Research and Development .

During Thursday’s daily press briefing, China’s foreign ministry pushed back on claims that anything suspicious had taken place in the Wuhan lab and reiterated there was no evidence that the coronavirus, which has infected more than 2 million people globally, was made there.

“The head of the WHO has stated many times that there is no evidence that the new coronavirus originated in the laboratory,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. “Many prominent medical experts in the world also believe that the so-called laboratory leaks have no scientific basis.”

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