Plans for More Labs
Conspiracy rumors that the biosafety lab was involved in the outbreak swirled online for months before Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought the theory into the mainstream by claiming that there is evidence the pathogen came from the institute.
The United States and Australia have called in recent weeks for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic.
Chinese scientists have said that the virus first emerged at a market selling live animals in Wuhan, though officials in Beijing more recently cast doubt about its origins.
Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday blasted what he called efforts by US politicians to “fabricate rumors” about the pathogen’s origins and “stigmatize China”.
He said China would be “open” to international cooperation to identify the source of the novel coronavirus, as long as any investigation is “free of political interference”.
The World Health Organization has said Washington offered no evidence to support the “speculative” claims about the Wuhan lab.
The Wuhan lab has said it received samples of the then-unknown virus on December 30, determined the viral genome sequence on January 2 and submitted information on the pathogen to the WHO on January 11.
Wang Yanyi said in the interview that before it received samples in December, their team had never “encountered, researched or kept the virus”.
“In fact, like everyone else, we didn’t even know the virus existed,” she said. “How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?”
At a press conference Sunday, Zhao Chenxin, deputy secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission, said every Chinese prefecture must have its own P3 laboratory to ramp up preparations against infectious diseases.
Apart from the P3 lab plans — the second-highest biosafety classification for labs handling pathogens — Zhao said each city should also have a lower-level P2 laboratory so they could “quickly respond in a major epidemic”.
The Wuhan institute has both P3 and P4 labs.