Wuhan maximum security lab chief denies it is source of coronavirus
BEIJING: The director of a maximum security laboratory in China's coronavirus ground-zero city of Wuhan has rejected claims that it could be the source of the outbreak, calling it "impossible".
Beijing has come under rising pressure over transparency in its handling of the pandemic.
Chinese scientists have said the virus likely jumped from an animal to humans in a market that sold wildlife. But the existence of the facility has fuelled conspiracy theories that the germ spread from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, specifically its P4 laboratory, which is equipped to handle dangerous viruses.
In an interview with state media published on Saturday, director of the laboratory Yuan Zhiming said "there is no way this virus came from us".
None of his staff had been infected, he told the English-language state broadcaster CGTN, adding the "whole institute is carrying out research in different areas related to the coronavirus". The institute had already dismissed the theory in February.
But this week, the US has brought the rumours into the mainstream, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying US officials are doing a "full investigation" into how the virus "got out into the world". US President Donald Trump echoed the views when he warned China it faced consequences if it was knowingly responsible for the virus.
When asked if the research suggested the virus could have come from the institute, Dr Yuan said: "I know it is impossible. As people who carry out viral studies, we know what kind of research is going on at the institute and how the institute manages viruses and samples."
He said because the P4 laboratory is in Wuhan, "people can't help but make associations", but that some media outlets are "deliberately trying to mislead people".
Reports in the Washington Post and Fox News have both quoted anonymous sources who voiced concern that the virus may have come - accidentally - from the facility. Dr Yuan said the reports were "entirely based on speculation" without "evidence or knowledge". - AFP