Chinese media has called US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “insane” over his insistence the coronavirus was manufactured in a Wuhan lab.
Mr Pompeo yesterday said there was “enormous evidence” the virus originated in a lab at the epicentre of the outbreak.
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In commentary titled: “Evil Pompeo is wantonly spewing poison and spreading lies”, the harshly-worded piece also referred to statements from the World Health Organisation, which has repeatedly said it has seen no information from the US or other sources to indicate the novel coronavirus came from a Chinese laboratory.
“From our perspective this remains speculative,” senior WHO official Mike Ryan said in Geneva, speaking in an online press briefing.
But Mr Pompeo has doubled down on claims from US officials and right-wing groups, despite WHO’s denial.
US President Donald Trump also said last week he has seen information indicating the Wuhan Institute of Virology is behind the coronavirus outbreak.
This is despite the US intelligence community has concluded the novel coronavirus was not man-made or genetically modified, even though it is still examining whether the outbreak could have originated in a Chinese laboratory.
Washington has not shared such data with the WHO, said Mr Ryan, who leads the UN agency’s emergency operations in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s difficult for the WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that regard,” he said.
The WHO’s top COVID-19 scientist Maria Van Kerkhove stressed that thousands of genetic analyses of the virus had all indicated it was of natural origin, even though it was still unclear which animal passed it to humans.
Earlier yesterday, Chinese state media hit back at the US, accusing Mr Trump’s administration of trying to distract from its own “incompetence” with allegations about the spread of the coronavirus.
A commentary in the Global Times newspaper, published under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, dismissed as “groundless” allegations China had covered up the scale of the coronavirus outbreak.
“The truth is that Pompeo does not have any evidence,” the paper wrote.
“If Washington has solid evidence, then it should let research institutes and scientists examine and verify it.”
WHO official Mr Ryan said the easiest way to find the origin of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease would be to work with Chinese scientists, rather than through a politicised “aggressive investigation of wrongdoing”.
“Science needs to be at centre,” he said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was too early to draw firm conclusions, about the theory that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory, Canadian media reported.
Canada is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance with the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Scientists consider it more likely the virus was transmitted to humans from bats via another animal.
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