|Chinese FM spokesperson Wang Wenbin:To find out whether the COVID-19 came from a lab leak, no one merits a proper investigation more than the US|
Journalist: Lately the University of North Carolina's biological laboratory and Professor Ralph Baric, known as the "Coronavirus Hunter", have attracted continued media attention, in particular, Baric's advanced technique in artificial synthesis of coronaviruses, the UNC lab's poor safety records and the unusual cooperative relations between Baric and Fort Detrick. Does China have any comment on this?
Wang Wenbin: For quite some time, the US has been persistently hyping up the so-called "Wuhan Institute of Virology lab leak theory" in disregard of the conclusion in the WHO-China study report that "a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely". It has gone so far as to ask the intelligence community to fabricate a so-called report on origins investigation. However, the US cannot whitewash itself by smearing China. The US keeps alleging that the virus came from a lab leak, but actually, no one merits a proper investigation more than the US.
First, the US was the first to start research in recombinant virus and possesses unrivalled strength in this area. It has also funded and conducted more research in coronaviruses than any other country. According to reports, Professor Baric started researching recombinant coronaviruses back in 1990. His team has long acquired and honed the capability to recombine and modify coronaviruses. Baric said in an interview with Italian media outlet PresaDiretta in September 2020 that "it is possible to engineer a virus without leaving a trace". Therefore, an investigation into Baric's team and lab is all it takes to clarify whether coronavirus research can create or has created novel coronavirus.
Second, the US also has the world's worst bio-lab safety records. From January 2015 to June 2020, the UNC reported 28 lab incidents involving genetically engineered organisms to the NIH. Six of these incidents involved coronaviruses including SARS, MERS and novel coronavirus, many of which had undergone genetic engineering. Altogether 8 researchers may have got infected. A scientist underwent 14 days of self-quarantine at home after a mouse bite caused potential exposure to a strain of SARS-CoV-2 in April 2020. Other than that, all staff who were faced with potential infection went on with their work and life as usual. Besides, key details like the nature of the genetic modifications and how the incidents were handled were deliberately removed from the incident reports.
Baric has close collaboration with the two institutes that engage in research involving high-risk viruses and coronaviruses at Fort Detrick, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), and the Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick (IRF-Frederick). His rich coronavirus resources and modification technique have been widely used at Fort Detrick through such cooperation. However, in the fall of 2019 before the outbreak of COVID-19, Fort Detrick-based USAMRIID's research was temporarily shut down after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigation found serious safety incidents there.
The US has been going to great lengths to try to prove that the novel coronavirus was leaked from the WIV. However, WHO experts have paid two visits there and concluded that a lab leak from a Wuhan lab is extremely unlikely. I wonder when the US plans to invite WHO experts to investigate the UNC bio-lab and USAMRIID? We suggest that the US stop slinging mud at others and instead find out what happened in its own labs first.