The director of a high-security laboratory in China’s Wuhan city – the epicentre of the highly contagious Covid-19 disease that has now spread to 185 countries – on Saturday denied claims that it was the source of the outbreak, AFP reported.

Several conspiracy theories are circling about the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s P4 laboratory, which is equipped to handle dangerous viruses. The United States, which has repeatedly accused China of concealing the origin and seriousness of the coronavirus from the world, is investigating whether the pandemic actually originated in the institute.

The laboratory’s director Yuan Zhiming refuted the conspiracy theories and said that it was “impossible” that the coronavirus originated there. “None of the staff had been infected,” he said according to the news agency. “The whole institute is carrying out research in different areas related to the coronavirus”.

The institute had already dismissed the theory in February, saying it had shared information about the coronavirus with the World Health Organization in early January. The US has revived the controversy with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that officials are investigating how the virus spread to other nations.

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  2. Coronavirus: China abruptly raises Wuhan’s toll by 50%, but denies ‘any concealment’

The laboratory’s director said that media outlets are trying to mislead people. “As people who carry out viral studies we clearly know what kind of research is going on at the institute and how the institute manages viruses and samples.” he said. “I know it’s impossible.”

Several questions have been raised about China’s transparency in handling the pandemic. A report published earlier this week said that China had failed to inform the people about the coronavirus for six days after government knew. Wuhan had hosted a mass banquet on the occasion of the Lunar New Year for tens of thousands of people, six days before the Chinese government made the outbreak public. On Friday, Wuhan abruptly raised its toll from the pandemic by 50%, from 2,579 to 3,869. China admitted that many cases were “mistakenly reported” or missed entirely.

So far, the coronavirus has infected more than 23 lakh people across the world and killed 1.6 lakh. US is by far the worst-hit country in the world – reporting more than 33,000 deaths and 7,22,761 positive Covid-19 cases.

Trump warns China of ‘serious consequences’

United States President Donald Trump on Saturday threatened China with consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic. “It [the coronavirus outbreak] could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering because of it,” Trump said in his daily White House briefing.

Last week, Trump 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”