Washington: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the coronavirus may have originated due to the activities of laboratories in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
An international team of experts of the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in Wuhan earlier this week to study the origin of the pandemic. During this visit, the US Department of State shared data regarding the outbreak in a hope that the WHO will press the Chinese authorities for more information regarding the deadly virus.
In A statement released late on Friday Pompeo said “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,”.
Secretary Pompeo noted that WIV had been researching the bat coronavirus RaTG13, which is 96.2 percent 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 claimed that despite presenting itself as a civilian laboratory, the laboratory had collaborated on publications and clandestine projects with the Chinese Defense Ministry.
He said that China was not transparent in disclosing the details regarding the outbreak and instead tried a cover-up.
“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 said.
During late 2019, Wuhan, situated in the province of Hubei became an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, this in due course turned into a pandemic and has claimed around 2 million lives across the world till date.