United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration was trying to determine the origins of the coronavirus and whether the pandemic began when the pathogen accidentally escaped a Chinese laboratory, claiming that “more and more we’re hearing the story”, BBC reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called on Beijing “to come clean” on what it knows about the outbreak.
The statement came after Fox News, in a report attributed to multiple unidentified sources, said the coronavirus was a naturally occurring pathogen that leaked from a Wuhan facility because of lax safety protocols, infecting an intern, who then transmitted it to her boyfriend.
The report said 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 United States.
In the president’s daily briefing on Wednesday, he was asked by Fox News reporter John Roberts if he could confirm the news report.“Well, I don’t want to say that John, but I will tell you more and more we’re hearing the story,” Trump said.
Trump added that United States was doing a “very thorough” examination of the “horrible situation that happened”, according to Al Jazeera. Asked if he had raised the subject in his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said: “I don’t want to discuss what I talked to him about the laboratory, I just don’t want to discuss, it’s inappropriate right now.”
The Pentagon’s top general, Mark Milley, cast doubt on the lab theory earlier this week, saying that US intelligence has looked into the possibility but that the “weight of evidence” so far pointed towards “natural” origins.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has also repeatedly denied all rumors that the virus may have been artificially synthesized at one of its laboratories or perhaps escaped from such a facility.
However, Pompeo, in an interview with Fox News Channel said “We know this virus originated in Wuhan, China”. Highlighting that the Institute of Virology is only a handful of miles away from the “wet market,” Pomeo said: “We really need the Chinese government to open up and help explain exactly how this virus spread. The Chinese government needs to come clean.”
Globally, Covid-19 has infected over 20.62 lakh people and caused over 1.36 lakh deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.