The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, claimed on Sunday there is “enormous evidence” the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but did not provide any of the alleged evidence.
Pompeo’s claims, made in an interview with ABC’s This Week, represented an escalation in rhetoric. He had previously said the US was looking into the possibility the virus came from a lab in Wuhan, China.
On Sunday, Pompeo said: “There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” later adding: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
At one point, the secretary of state appeared confused over whether he was claiming the Sars-CoV-2 virus (which causes the Covid-19 disease) was deliberately engineered or escaped as the result of a lab accident.
“Look, the best experts so far seem to think it was manmade. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point,” he said.
But when he was reminded that US intelligence had issued a formal statement noting the opposite – that the scientific consensus was that the virus was not manmade or genetically modified – Pompeo replied: “That’s right. I agree with that.”
Donald Trump made a similar unsupported claim on Thursday, saying he was privy to evidence of the pandemic began in a Chinese lab but was not permitted to share it.
Donald Trump has declared he thinks coronavirus leaked because of a ‘horrible mistake’ days after saying he’d seen evidence of it originating in a Chinese virus lab.
Asked at a virtual town hall session Sunday if he thought China had misled the world about the Covid-19 outbreak, Trump said: ‘Personally, I think they made a horrible mistake, and they didn’t want to admit it. We wanted to go in, but they didn’t want us there. they made a mistake, they tried to cover it, like a fire. ‘What they really treated the world badly on, they stopped people going into China, but they didn’t stop people leaving China and going all over the world I think they were embarrassed by the problem – very embarrassed. They allowed this to go into our country, other countries. This should never have happened.
This virus should not have spread all over the world.’ Last week, Trump said he had seen evidence Covid-19 began spreading as a result of an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. US intelligence officials say the virus was not man-made or genetically engineered, and that they are continuing to investigate its origin. At Sunday’s question and answer session at the Lincoln Memorial, Trump told Fox News his administration would publish a ‘conclusive report’ of its theory on how Covid-19 began in the near future.
Last month, Fox News White House Correspondent put a similar theory to Trump, with the president refusing to deny sources claims that an unnamed intern at the virus lab had been contaminated with the virus, and that she began spreading it after visiting the nearby Wuhan wet market. The Wuhan Institute of Virology received US funding, and sparked concern in 2018 after a visiting American expert saw evidence of potentially dangerous experiments being performed related to bat-related coronaviruses. Covid-19 is widely believed to have originated in bats, with that researcher wiring Washington DC to warn them safety procedures at the virus lab were poor.
President Donald Trump says he believes a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available by the end of the year.
Trump also says the U.S. government is putting its "full power and might" behind remdesivir, a drug that has shown early promise as a treatment for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Trump commented Sunday night during a televised town hall sponsored by Fox News Channel.
Trump sat inside the Lincoln Memorial and fielded questions from two Fox hosts, as well as from people who submitted questions over Fox's social media platforms.
Trump responded to a Nebraska man who recovered from COVID-19 by saying: "We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year."
He also said his administration was pushing hard for remdesivir.
U.S. public health officials have said a vaccine is probably a year to 18 months away. But Dr. Anthony Fauci said in late April that it's conceivable, if a vaccine is developed soon, it could be in wide distribution as soon as January.
There is no current evidence to suggest that coronavirus leaked from a Chinese research laboratory, intelligence sources have told the Guardian, contradicting recent White House claims that there is growing proof this is how the pandemic began.
The sources also insisted that a “15-page dossier” highlighted by the Australian Daily Telegraph which accused China of a deadly cover up was not culled from intelligence from the Five Eyes network, an alliance between the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
British and other Five Eyes agencies do believe that Beijing has not necessarily been open about how coronavirus initially spread in Wuhan at the turn of the year. But they are nervous about getting involved in an escalating international situation.
On Sunday Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
No evidence was offered by Pompeo to back up his assertion but information has been circulating over the last month in the UK, US and Australia aimed at raising questions about the high security Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has long specialised in researching coronaviruses in horseshoe bats.
Stories have suggested that workers in the lab may not have always used full protective equipment, and that in one instance a bat urinated on a researcher who did not subsequently become ill.
But there is nothing to indicate a leak from the lab could have caused the pandemic, sources say.]
Australia’s Daily Telegraph – a Sydney tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch – has been focusing on the Wuhan lab for several days, culminating in a weekend report which cited a 15-page dossier compiled, it said, by “concerned Western governments” amid an investigation by British and other members of the Five Eyes intelligence agencies.
Intelligence sources in Australia were quick to say they believed it was based on open source, public domain material. One told the Guardian they believed the information that appeared in the News Corp title was most likely to have originally come from the US: “My instinct is that it was a tool for building a counter-narrative and applying pressure to China. So it’s the intent behind it that’s most important. So possibly open source leads with a classification slapped on it.”
Downing Street said that the UK did not comment on intelligence matters – although British sources also said they did not recognise the dossier as based on classified information provided by the country’s spy agencies.
Downing Street said it would not comment on intelligence matters, but a No 10 spokesman said: “Clearly there are questions that need to be answered about the origin and spread of the virus, not least so we can ensure we are better prepared for future global pandemics.”
Wang Yanyi, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told Chinese state media Sunday the lab was working on three live strains of bat coronavirus, but the closest genetic match to the virus that causes COVID-19 and sparked a global health crisis was only 79.8 percent. Therefore, Wang said, claims by the likes of President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the virus may have escaped from the facility are "pure fabrication."
As tensions between the U.S. and China have heightened since the outbreak, Trump and Pompeo have leaned into the lab-origin theory. But the scientific consensus remains that the pathogen was passed from bats to humans through an intermediary species at a wet market in Wuhan last year, although it's becoming more challenging to pinpoint the animal.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday that some political forces in the U.S. are trying to push the two global powers "to the brink" of "a new Cold War" and endangering global peace. Wang's concerns were broader than just the back and the forth over pandemic blame, however; he also criticized the U.S. for slowing nuclear negotiations with North Korea and warned Washingotn not to cross Beijing's "red line" on Taiwan." Wang did say foreign interference concerning Hong Kong's renewed anti-government protests was unwelcome, but he didn't single the U.S. out in that regard. Read more at The Guardian and Bloomberg.