President Trump confirmed on Friday that the U.S. government and intelligence agencies are investigating reports that have suggested the new coronavirus spread after escaping from a laboratory, instead of a market, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Talking to reporters at the White House on Friday, Trump said “a lot of investigation” is going on about the origin of COVD-19 in Wuhan in Hubei Province late last year, and “we’re going to find out.”
“All I can say is wherever it came from — it came from China, in whatever form — 184 countries are suffering because of it. And it’s too bad, isn’t it? It could have been solved very easily when it was just starting,” the president added.
Earlier this week, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had also said that intelligence agencies were looking at the possible origin of the novel coronavirus from a Wuhan lab.
Jim Geraghty, a senior political correspondent at National Review, recently wrote about a documentary film by YouTube creator Matthew Tye on the coronavirus outbreak which suggests the virus accidentally escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China posted a job opening last November, “asking for scientists to come research the relationship between the coronavirus and bats,” Geraghty wrote.
The same institute posted a second job posting last December. The translation of a part of that posting said “a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified,” the correspondent added.
“They talk about a certain kind of bat, but that bat wasn’t in that area,” Trump said Friday, according to The Washington Times. “But that bat wasn’t sold at that wet zone. It wasn’t sold there. That bat was 40 miles away. A lot of strange things are happening.”
Geraghty acknowledged that there’s no “definitive proof that COVID-19 originated from a bat at either the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention or the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as that would require “much broader access to information about what happened in those facilities in the time period before the epidemic in the city.”
However, he concluded, that it is a “remarkable coincidence” that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was researching Ebola and SARS-associated coronaviruses in bats before the pandemic outbreak, and “that in the month when Wuhan doctors were treating the first patients of COVID-19,” the institute announced in a hiring notice that “a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Fox News Thursday he doesn’t think China’s official figures of deaths from the coronavirus are correct. “That number is really rather a low number. That number surprises me that that number is so low,” Fauci said, when asked about China’s claim of less than 5,000 COVID-19 deaths, as reported by The Epoch Times.
On Friday, Chinese officials raised the death toll from the coronavirus to 3,869 in Wuhan, an increase of 1,290 from the previous figure, according to The New York Times, which noted that researchers at the University of Hong Kong recently estimated the number of confirmed cases in China was around 232,000 by late February, more than four times the number China projected at the time.
Anonymously speaking to Bloomberg, three officials had earlier also said the U.S. intelligence community noted in a classified report to the White House that China lied about the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak, under-reporting the number of infections and deaths.
“The reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming,” Vice President Mike Pence recently said on CNN. “What appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as a month earlier than that, that the outbreak was real in China.”