China admits that labs destroyed coronavirus samples on safety concerns: Reports

Laboratory technicians testing samples of coronavirus at a laboratory in Hengyang in China’s central Henan province on February 18, 2020. (File photo: AFP)

China has seemingly admitted that it destroyed early samples of the coronavirus, confirming US suspicions that Beijing told labs to destroy samples, but noted that the step was taken to prevent risks associated with the virus.

In a press briefing in Beijing Friday, senior Chinese health official Liu Dengfeng confirmed that the country’s National Health Commission had ordered destruction of coronavirus samples on January 3 “for pandemic prevention and control, which also played an important role in preventing biosafety risks,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month accused China of destroying samples as part of a cover-up over the People’s Republic handling of the pandemic. On May 3, Pompeo added that there is “a significant amount of evidence” the coronavirus emerged from a Chinese laboratory. China rejects this version of events.

“If the laboratory conditions cannot meet the requirements for the safe preservation of samples, the samples should be destroyed on the spot or transferred to a professional institution for safekeeping,” the Journal reported Liu as saying.

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The decision to name the coronavirus as ‘highly pathogenic’ necessitated “clear requirements on the collection, transportation, experimental use and destruction of the pathogen,” Liu added, US weekly magazine Newsweek reported.

The destruction of these samples would appear to fit within Chinese laws, highlighted by Liu, regarding the handling of highly pathogenic samples.

Liu went on to criticize Pompeo’s accusations of China’s handling of the virus, adding that the Secretary’s version of events “takes facts out of context with the aim of intentionally misleading people,” the Journal reported.

Origination point controversy

There has been significant controversy over what the origin of the COVID-19 coronavirus is, with its true origination point remaining a mystery.

Experts have disagreed over whether the spread of the virus is the result of transmission at a wet market in the city of Wuhan, China, or from a laboratory.

US officials familiar with intelligence reporting and analysis have said they believe the virus either escaped from a Wuhan government laboratory or was introduced through human contact with wildlife at a market in the city.

Chinese officials, denying the lab was the source, have stuck with its initial designation of the Hunan Seafood Market as the origin point for the virus, known medically as SARS-CoV-2.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian blasted the idea that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab as having “no scientific basis” on April 16 and has echoed the World Health Organization’s April 21 statement that the virus likely originated in animals.

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the country’s intelligence agencies and organizations, said Thursday it agreed with “the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” but continue to investigate if the virus was accidentally released from a lab in China.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:54 - GMT 06:54
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