An official from a laboratory in Wuhan, China has ended its silence on claims that the coronavirus came from the facility.
Speaking on the Chinese state-owned news network CGTN, Yuan Zhiming refuted what he called a “conspiracy theory” that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The lab sits only a few miles from the market in the Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected.
“There is no way this virus came from us,” said Yuan, the laboratory’s vice director. “We have a strict regulatory regime and code of conduct of research, so we are confident.”
The microbiologist said the facility’s location was very likely behind the theory that the COVID-19 virus came from there.
Since it was first reported in Wuhan, the virus has spread to virtually all countries in the world, infecting millions of people. It has led to the death of more than 156,000 people, according to a report by NBC News.
The comments by Yuan made it the first time the Wuhan Institute of Virology would publicly counter the claims of it being responsible for the current pandemic.
Chinese lab as a possible origin
In recent weeks, intelligence experts in the U.S. have been exploring the theory that the virus probably escaped by mistake from the lab. Some former and current American officials shared this view with NBC News.
Researchers at the Wuhan institute are known to investigate coronaviruses present in bats.
The intelligence experts, however, do not believe that the virus is man-made. They simply think that it was possible that a lab employee became infected with the virus at the facility and left without knowing it.
The origin of the virus is now becoming a politically-divisive matter. President Donald Trump and some American officials have been quoted as describing the pathogen as the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus to the anger of China’s government.
The U.S. president revealed last week that he would halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its handling of the pandemic. He accused the global health body of mismanagement and cover-up, especially as it pertains to the initial Chinese outbreak.
A few days ago, Trump also told journalists that “a lot of strange things” were happening, as regards where COVID-19 started.
China debunks claim
The Chinese government has joined the Wuhan Institute of Virology in debunking the theory that the coronavirus came from the $44-million facility, which was established in 2014.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, emphasized that WHO’s chief had stated again and again that the virus did not come from a lab. He went further to say that many world-renowned medical experts have also dismissed the theory as having no scientific basis.
Yuan, who has worked in other countries including the U.S. and France for years, said it was misleading and wrong to say the virus came from his lab. According to him, the institute worked closely with the WHO and did the groundwork for further research on testing and vaccine creation.