Scientists at a Wuhan laboratory argue that they are being unfairly blamed for the coronavirus pandemic after reports indicated that most U.S. intelligence agencies believe the virus leaked from the lab, NBC News reported Monday.
Wang Yanyi, director of a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said politics should not cloud investigations into where and how the virus originated.
“It is unfortunate that we have been targeted as a scapegoat for the origin of the virus,” Wang said during an NBC interview, which took place while government representatives were present.
“Any person would inevitably feel very angry or misunderstood being subject to unwarranted or malicious accusations while carrying out research and related work in the fight against the virus.”
Wang denied that the virus originated at the institute, and argued that scientists at the facility obtained their first samples of the virus after the disease began spreading.
The NBC report comes months after Fox News White House reporter John Roberts tweeted that American intelligence agencies believe the virus originated in the lab and was leaked by mistake.
A Senior Intelligence Source tells me there is agreement among most of the 17 Intelligence agencies that COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan lab. The source stressed that the release is believed to be a MISTAKE, and was not intentional.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) May 2, 2020
Yuan Zhiming, vice director of the institute, dismissed the idea of a leak.
“I have repeatedly emphasized that it was on Dec. 30 that we got contact with the samples of SARS-like pneumonia or pneumonia of unknown cause sent from the hospital,” Yuan said.
“We have not encountered the novel coronavirus before that, and without this virus, there is no way that it is leaked from the lab.”
U.S. officials believe the virus originated in Wuhan, China, in late December before spreading to the United States, where it has killed more than 160,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Experts have also speculated that the virus emanated from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, a wet market where vendors sell live animals for consumption.
“So far, there is no evidence to show that the novel coronavirus jumped from animals to people in Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan,” Yuan said.
It is not yet clear “how it jumped from the natural or immediate hosts to humans in the early stages, from what animal and when and how the spillover happened.”
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