Yuan Zhiming, the head of the Institute of Virology in the Chinese city of Wuhan has rejected allegations by the U.S. that the novel coronavirus could have originated in his laboratory.
“There’s no way this virus came out from us,” Yuan said in an interview with state television, the English-language transcript of which was published by Chinese media on Sunday.
“We clearly know what kind of virus research is going on in the institute and how the institute manages viruses and samples,” he added.
More generally, he said, “there is no evidence to prove that the virus has artificial or synthetic traces.”
None of the laboratory staff had been infected with the coronavirus, the director said, adding that he understood why people had jumped to conclusions about his institute in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic originated.
“But it’s bad when some are deliberately trying to mislead people,” added Yuan.
“I know it’s impossible. This is entirely based on speculation,” said.
Asked about the theory during an interview on U.S. broadcaster CBS, Deborah Birx, a top public health official on the coronavirus, downplayed the possibility.
“I don’t have any evidence that it was a laboratory accident,” Birx said, while cautioning that the origins of the virus were still shrouded in mystery.
“We are still a long way from figuring it out. We know it originated in China. We just don’t know how and where,” she added.
The comments come a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S. was investigating whether the virus could have originated in the Wuhan lab.
“It seems to make sense,” he told reporters at a daily briefing at the White House.
Scientists have doubted whether the coronavirus could have come from a lab.
The first infections with the coronavirus were linked with an animal market in Wuhan.
Experts believe the virus comes from bats and might also have been spread via another host animal.