WASHINGTON (Jan 16): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pictured) said that the origin of the coronavirus may be linked to the activities of the Chinese laboratories in the city of Wuhan, reported Sputnik News Agency.
Earlier this week, the international team of experts of the World Health Organisation (WHO) arrived in Wuhan to study the origin of the pandemic. Amid this visit, the US Department of State shared some data about the outbreak in a hope that the WHO will press the Chinese authorities to get more information about the deadly virus.
“The United States government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology] became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.
"This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was ‘zero infection’ among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses,” Pompeo said.
The secretary of state noted that WIV had been researching the bat coronavirus RaTG13, which 96.2 per cent similar to SARS-CoV-2.
“Since the outbreak, the WIV has not been transparent nor consistent about its work with RaTG13 or other similar viruses, including possible “gain of function” experiments to enhance transmissibility or lethality,” Pompeo said.
He also said that despite presenting itself as a civilian laboratory, WIV had collaborated on publications and secret projects with the Chinese Defence Ministry.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was avoidable. Any responsible country would have invited world health investigators to Wuhan within days of an outbreak. China instead refused offers of help – including from the United States – and punished brave Chinese doctors, scientists, and journalists who tried to alert the world to the dangers of the virus.
Beijing continues today to withhold vital information that scientists need to protect the world from this deadly virus, and the next one,” Pompeo added.
In late 2019, Wuhan in the province of Hubei became an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, which turned into a pandemic that claimed around two million lives across the world.
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