Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday claimed that the coronavirus emerged in a laboratory, not at a wet market in Wuhan city in China, NDTV reported. Gadkari is the minister in charge of micro, small and medium enterprises, for which Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of measures earlier in the day.

In an interview with the news channel, Gadkari said the methodology of detection of the virus was problematic. “We need some good methodology for that so that we can immediately identify the virus,” he said. “This is unexpected because this a virus from laboratory, this is not natural virus, so the world is now prepared, India is now prepared, scientists are prepared.”

Gadkari said many countries are trying to manufacture a vaccine for the virus, and that this vaccine will be produced soon. “The vaccine is not available, it is expected that vaccine will be available as soon as possible, then there will be no problem,” he said.

Gadkari is not the first to claim that the virus, which was first detected in December in Wuhan, originated in a laboratory. Earlier this month, United States President Donald Trump threatened China with new tariffs, claiming that he had seen evidence linking a Wuhan lab to the infection. The World Health Organization, however, said Trump’s comments were “speculative”, and called for a scientific inquiry.

Most experts believe the virus originated in a market that traded in wildlife in Wuhan. However, it is unclear how the virus passed from animals to people. Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO specialist in viruses, said it was important to determine this intermediate host.

Gadkari also said that migrant labourers left for their hometowns after the Indian government imposed a lockdown, due to fear. He hoped they would return to their work areas when the lockdown was lifted, adding that the government cannot keep extending the curbs every month.

“We need to fight coronavirus but we are also fighting an economic war,” he said. “We are a poor country and can’t increase the lockdown from month to month.” The nationwide lockdown, imposed on March 25, has been extended thrice, with the latest extension beginning May 18.

So far, the novel coronavirus has infected over 43 lakh people globally, and killed more than 2.94 lakh, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has faced the worst of the pandemic till now, with more than 14 lakh infections and over 84,000 deaths.

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