China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has responded to questions over the origins of COVID-19, dismissing allegations that the virus was created in a Chinese laboratory.
Fox News had reported on Wednesday that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory not as a bioweapon, but as part of China’s effort to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the U.S.
President Donald Trump had said on Wednesday his government is trying to determine whether the coronavirus emanated from a lab in Wuhan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Beijing “needs to come clean” on what they know, adding, “we know this virus originated in Wuhan.”
The source of the virus remains a mystery. Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday U.S. intelligence indicates that the coronavirus likely occurred naturally, as opposed to being created in a laboratory in China.
At a White House news conference Trump was asked about the reports of the virus escaping from the Wuhan lab, and he said he was aware of them.
“We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened,” he said.
Trump has sought to stress strong U.S. ties with China during the pandemic as the U.S. has relied on China for personal protection equipment desperately needed by American medical workers.
As far back as February, the Chinese state-backed Wuhan Institute of Virology dismissed rumuors that the virus may have been artificially synthesised at one of its laboratories or perhaps escaped from such a facility.
Trump and other officials have expressed deep skepticism of China’s officially declared death toll from the virus of around 3,000 people, when the U.S. has a death toll of more than 20,000 and rising.
He returned to the subject on Wednesday, saying the U.S. has more cases “because we do more reporting.”