The US is looking into reports that the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,50,000 people globally, “escaped” from a virology laboratory in China’s Wuhan, President Donald Trump has said.
The US has been conducting a full-scale investigation into whether the deadly virus “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Fox News said in an exclusive report, adding that intelligence operatives were reportedly gathering information about the laboratory and the initial outbreak of the pathogen.
“We’re looking at it, a lot of people are looking at it. It seems to make sense,” Trump told reporters at a White House news conference on Friday (April 17) when asked if there was an investigation into whether the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
“They talk about a certain kind of bat, but that bat wasn’t in that area if you can believe this. That bat wasn’t sold at that wet zone… That bat is 40 miles away,” he claimed.
Intelligence analysts are piecing together a timeline of what the government knew and are “creating an accurate picture of what happened”, the news channel quoted sources as saying.
“A lot of strange things are happening, but there is a lot of investigation going on and we are going to find out,” Trump said. “All I can say is wherever it came from, came from China in whatever form, and 184 countries now are suffering because of it.”
Trump added that the US would end its grant to a level-IV lab in Wuhan. “(The) Obama administration gave them a grant of USD 3.7 million. We will end that grant very quickly,” the president said.
A group of more than half-a-dozen lawmakers sent a letter to House and Senate leadership, requesting them to ensure that no future coronavirus relief funds be appropriated to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Meanwhile, lawmaker James Smith accused China of indulging in covering up the issue of coronavirus. “The communist Chinese government’s cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak allowed this virus to spread unchecked, threatening the health and stability of the free world. They must be held accountable,” Smith said.
“When people in Wuhan began to fall ill with a mysterious SARS-like illness, instead of working to contain the virus, the Chinese Communist Party ruthlessly worked to contain the spread of information. This secrecy endangered millions of lives, the Congressman said.
China has denied covering up the extent of its coronavirus outbreak and accused the US of attempting to divert the public attention by insinuating that the virus originated from a Wuhan lab.
The number of coronavirus cases in the US crossed 7,00,000 on Friday, while over 35,000 people have died of it, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University.