'Lab leak' theory unfounded
Claim about institute workers' infection 'created out of thin air', researcher says
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has never engineered or leaked the novel coronavirus and no staff members have ever contracted the virus, a researcher from the institute said on Thursday.
Yuan Zhiming, who is also director of the National Biosafety Laboratory in Wuhan, Hubei province, said that the institute had not come in contact with, preserved or researched the virus before Dec 30, 2019.
"The infrastructure, management levels, team composition and working protocols at the institute's P4 biosafety laboratory are the same as other P4 labs in operation around the world," he said at a news conference held by the State Council Information Office. "Since the laboratory began operating in 2018, no laboratory leaks or human infection incidents have ever happened."
Yuan said the laboratory has stable and reliable biosafety precautions in place, and has established complete biosafety management systems and a professional team to strengthen, manage and maintain its operation.
Dismissing the claim that three workers at the institute were infected with the disease in November 2019, Yuan said those spreading the accusation had never provided any names of the alleged researchers. "The claim has been created out of thin air," he said.
Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, added that the institute had never carried out gain-of-function experiments. He added that the closest strain to the novel coronavirus studied at the institute only shared 96.2 percent of their genome sequences, which is not similar enough to be determined as the novel coronavirus' progenitor.
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