The World Health Organization says the United States government has not given any evidence to support Trump administration officials’ “speculative” claim that Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, as China dismissed the theory as “insane”.
Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he has proof the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan – whereas scientists believe it jumped from animals to humans at a wet market in the city last year.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said on Sunday that the US had “enormous evidence” to back the theory. But the administration had not produced it publicly or provided it to the WHO, said its emergencies director, Dr Michael Ryan. “So from our perspective, this remains speculative.
“Like any evidence-based organisation, we would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus,” Ryan said, stressing that this was “a very important piece of public health information for future control”.
“If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared, but it is difficult for the WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that regard.”
Ryan said it was important for the WHO to learn from Chinese scientists’ data and exchange knowledge to “find the answers together”, but cautioned against politicising the issue. “If this is projected as aggressive investigation of wrongdoing, that is much more difficult to deal with. That’s a political issue,” he said.
Chinese state media attacked the US claims, with the state broadcaster CCTV labelling them “insane and evasive” in a Monday opinion piece entitled “Evil Pompeo is wantonly spewing poison and spreading lies”. The state-backed Global Times also published an editorial accusing Pompeo and Trump of “bluffing”, and said if the US had evidence it should present it.
“If Washington has solid evidence, then it should let research institutes and scientists examine and verify it,” the editorial said. The Global Times’ editor, Hu Xijin, tweeted that demands to investigate the Wuhan lab were an attempt to “fool the American people”.
Last week Sky News reported the WHO had been denied any involvement in China’s investigations into the origins of the virus.
Reports in Australia suggested its intelligence officials believed a “dossier” – touted by the Trump administration to support the laboratory theory – was compiled from news reports rather than actual material from the “Five Eyes” spy network of Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada and the UK.
The US’s senior infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has said the available evidence was “very, very strongly leaning toward this [virus] could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated”.
The WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, stressed during Monday’s briefing that there were some 15,000 full genome sequences of the novel coronavirus available, and “from all of the evidence that we have seen … this virus is of natural origin”.
Source: The Gaurdian