In an interview with the Chinese news network CGTN on Saturday, Wuhan Institute of Virology Director Wang Yanyi once again rejected the Trump administration's claims that the coronavirus came from the institute's lab.
"This is pure fabrication. Our institute first received the clinical sample of the unknown pneumonia on 30 December last year", she said, adding that after institute experts "checked the pathogen within the sample, we found it contained a new coronavirus, which is now called SARS-CoV-2".
"We didn't have any knowledge before that, nor had we ever encountered, researched, or kept the virus. In fact, like everyone else, we didn't even know the virus existed. How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?", Wang pointed out.
She also recalled the "current consensus of the international academic community" on COVID-19 which suggests that "the virus originated from wild animals", but added "we still don't clearly know what kind of viruses that all different wild species carry across the globe and where the viruses that are highly similar to SARS-CoV-2 are".
"This is why cooperation between scientists all over the world is needed to find the answers. Therefore, the issue of origin-tracking is ultimately a question of science, which requires scientists to make judgments based on scientific data and facts", Wang underscored.
Beijing Rejects Washington's Virus Origin Claims
Her remarks come as Washington continues to assert that COVID-19 came from a Wuhan biolab, with President Donald Trump claiming earlier in May that "probably it was incompetence" and that "somebody was stupid", in an apparent reference to Wuhan Institute of Virology staff.
He was echoed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who blamed China for covering up the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and pointed to alleged "enormous evidence" that the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan biolab.
The allegations have consistently been rejected by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which called on the US to "handle its domestic affairs properly first", rather than shift blame and the focus onto China.
The Ministry also pointed out that World Health Organisation officials have "repeatedly stated that there is no evidence showing the virus was made in a lab".
"Now [US officials] are again hyping up the issue of origins, insinuating that the virus had something to do with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It's not difficult to see through their tricks which intend to muddy the waters, deflect attention, and shift the blame to others", Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said last month.
Also in April, Yuan Zhiming, vice director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told CGTN "there is no way" that the coronavirus was man-made, adding, "we have a strict regulatory regime and code of conduct of research, so we are confident".
"It's bad when some are deliberately trying to mislead people. […] The Washington Post and several other reporters wrote about the virus coming from the Wuhan lab. They have no evidence, or knowledge, this is entirely based on speculation", Yuan stressed.