Coronavirus didn’t escape research center, director says
- ‘Absolutely no way’ virus originated from lab, Yuan says
A top Wuhan laboratory official has denied any role in spreading the new coronavirus, in the most high profile response from a facility at the center of months of speculation about how the previously unknown animal disease made the leap to humans.
Yuan Zhiming, director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, hit back at those promoting theories that the virus had escaped from the facility and caused the outbreak in the central Chinese city. “There is absolutely no way that the virus originated from our institute,” Yuan said in an interview Saturday with the state-run China Global Television Network.
Yuan rejected theories that the yet-to-be identified “Patient Zero” for Covid-19 had contact with the institute, saying none of its employees, retirees or student researchers were known to be infected. He said U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and Washington Post journalists were among those “deliberately leading people” to mistrust the facility and its “P4” top-level-security pathogen lab.
U.S. President Donald Trump again fanned speculation about the origins of the virus at a Saturday news conference, in which he said China should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the outbreak. The U.S. president has at times referred to the disease as a “Chinese virus,” a term he said he embraced after a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman tweeted an unsubstantiated theory about U.S. Army athletes introducing the pathogen to Wuhan.
“What we know is that the ground zero for this virus was within a few miles of that lab,” Peter Navarro, a Trump trade adviser, said Sunday on Fox News. “If you simply do an Occam’s razor approach that the simplest explanation is probably the most likely, I think it’s incumbent on China to prove that it wasn’t that lab.”
The U.S.-China blame game has helped fuel scrutiny of the Wuhan lab, which was studying bat-borne coronaviruses like the one that causes Covid-19. U.S. diplomats sent back warnings about safety procedures in the lab after visits two years ago, the Washington Post reported in an April 14 commentary, citing diplomatic cables.