President Donald Trump 'has seen evidence' coronavirus came from Wuhan laboratory

30 April 2020, 23:07

US President Donald J. Trump takes questions from reporters after speaking about protecting seniors from coronavirus
US President Donald J. Trump takes questions from reporters after speaking about protecting seniors from coronavirus. Picture: PA

By Megan White

President Donald Trump says he has seen evidence which makes him “confident” that coronavirus came from a laboratory in Wuhan.

During a press conference, the president was asked: "Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?”

He replied: "Yes, I have. And I think that the World Health Organisation should be ashamed of themselves, because they're like the public relations agency for China.

"This country pays them almost $500 million a year, and China pays them $38 million a year, and whether it's a lot or more, it doesn't matter.

"They shouldn't be making excuses when people make horrible mistakes, especially mistakes that are causing hundreds of thousands of people around the world to die.

"I think the World Health Organisation should be ashamed of themselves."

But asked what gave him such confidence, he said: "I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that."

The President’s comments came hours after the US intelligence services ruled out the virus being man-made but said they would continue to investigate whether its spread was the “result of an accident at a laboratory.”

In a statement, the Office of the DNI said: “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.

“The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

Earlier this month, President Trump addressed the lab theory saying: "More and more, we're hearing the story."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added at the time: "The mere fact that we don't know the answers - that China hasn't shared the answers - I think is very, very telling."

Mr Pompeo also pressed China to let outside experts into the lab "so that we can determine precisely where this virus began".

Scientists say the virus arose naturally in bats. Even so, Mr Pompeo and others have pointed fingers at an institute that is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It has done groundbreaking research tracing the likely origins of the Sars virus, finding new bat viruses and discovering how they could jump to people.

"We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was," Mr Pompeo said two weeks ago.

The institute has an address eight miles from the market that is considered a possible source.

US officials say the American Embassy in Beijing flagged concerns about potential safety issues at the lab in Wuhan in 2018, but they have yet to find any evidence the virus originated there nearly two years later.

The Chinese government said on Thursday that any claims that the coronavirus was released from a laboratory are "unfounded and purely fabricated out of nothing".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang cited the institute's director, Yuan Zhiming, as saying the lab strictly implements bio-security procedures that would prevent the release of any pathogen.

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"I would like to point out again that the origin of the virus is a complex scientific issue, and it should be studied by scientists and professionals," Mr Geng said.

Scientists studying the virus for months have made clear they believe it was not man-made, but are still working to determine a point at which it may have jumped from animals to humans.

Mr Trump's comments came hours after he claimed Beijing "will do anything they can" to prevent him being re-elected, citing China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic as proof.

He announced on Thursday that the federal government in the US will not be renewing its social distancing rules when they expire later today.

The US has the highest total number of coronavirus deaths of anywhere in the world, with more than 60,000 deaths from Covid-19 and over one million cases.

The guidelines, dubbed “30 Days to Slow the Spread" were originally supposed to last 15 days and were then extended an additional 30.

They encouraged Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants, group gatherings and discretionary travel and advised older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.

"They'll be fading out because now the governors are doing it," Mr Trump told reporters at a meeting with executives from companies like Hilton and Toyota.

President Trump also said that he hopes to hold mass rallies in the not too distant future with no social distancing because people sitting far apart is “not a good look.”