Alleged coronavirus leak a 'pure fabrication,' Wuhan lab chief says

Henrietta Brewer
May 25, 2020

Known as China's "bat woman", the deputy director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology said research into viruses needs scientists and governments to be transparent and cooperative.

Wang Yanyi, an immunologist and director of the institute, mainland China's first biosafety level 4 laboratory, was quoted in Chinese state media on Saturday as saying such claims are "pure fabrication".

The Wuhan Institute for Virology has admitted to having three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site.

This statement was made by the head of the institution Wang Yan in an interview with Chinese correspondents. The team, led by Professor She Zhengli, had been researching bat coronaviruses since 2004.

To which she responded that the institute did not isolate or obtain the live virus of the RaTG-13 coronavirus. But their highest similarity to SARS-CoV-2 only reaches 79.8 percent, ' she said, referring to the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19.

One of their research teams, led by Professor Shi Zhengli, has been researching bat coronaviruses since 2004 and focused on the "source tracing of Sars", the strain behind the severe acute respiratory syndrome virus outbreak almost two decades ago.

"We know that the whole genome of SARS-CoV-2 is only 80 percent similar to that of SARS". It's an obvious difference.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the USA has offered no evidence to support the "speculative" claims about the Wuhan lab.

Institute director Wang Yanyi (pictured) also refuted claims that the pathogen had come from the institute.

Before that, Wang insisted, the institute neither had any knowledge of Covid-19, nor had it encountered, researched or stored it. "In fact, like everyone else, we didn't even know the virus existed", she stated.

The laboratory has stated it obtained samples of this then-unknown virus on December 30, decided that the viral genome order on January 2, and submitted data about the pathogen into the World Health Organization on January 11.

"Our institute first received the clinical sample of unknown pneumonia on December 30 past year", she recalled, in an interview to China's CGTN news outlet.

Shi, who gave the interview as the annual National People's Congress meeting of the country's top leadership started in Beijing, has said that the genetic characteristics of the viruses she has worked with didn't match those of the one spreading in humans, Bloomberg reported.

Maureen Miller, an infectious disease epidemiologist who worked with virologist Shi Zhengli, the leader of the Wuhan lab, as part of a US -funded viral research program, dismissed the idea of a lab leak as an "absolute conspiracy theory".

Chinese scientists have said that the virus first emerged at a market selling live animals in Wuhan, though officials in Beijing more recently cast doubt about its origins.

Before us Secretary of state Mike Pompeo expressed the opinion that there is a considerable probability of occurrence Covid-19 in the laboratory of the Chinese Wuhan.

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