While the World Health Organisation (WHO) team landed in Wuhan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 15 alleged that there was COVID-like illness among staff at a Chinese virology institute in autumn 2019. In a press statement, the top US Official again blamed Beijing for the outbreak of the deadly virus and urged the WHO to “press the government of China” on the “new information”. The 15-member international team of the health experts had arrived in China on Thursday and they are taken with probing into the origins of the lethal coronavirus infection that has killed nearly two billion people across the globe.
Pompeo said, “The United States government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the (Wuhan Institute of Virology) became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses”.
Further, he said that this contradicted reports that none of the staff at the institute had contracted COVID-19 or related virus. Pompeo added that Beijing continues to withhold vital information that scientists need to protect the world from this deadly virus, and the next one. The top US diplomat also claimed that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which presents itself as a civilian institute, has “collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military”.
“The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017,” Pompeo said.
The unprecedented coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 and since it has infected tens of millions of people across the globe. The Trump administration has repeatedly blamed China for the outbreak with the President routinely calling it the “China Virus”. WHO, on the other hand, has said that establishing the pathway of the virus from animals to humans is essential to preventing future outbreaks.
Meanwhile, upon arrival in Wuhan, two members of the international team have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. According to WHO, the 15-member team had undergone COVID-19 tests in their home countries prior to leaving for Wuhan, however, upon reaching Singapore, two members of the team tested positive for Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies, but negative for PCR. WHO has said that the two scientists are still in Singapore undergoing tests for COVID-19 for both IgM and IgG antibodies.