Wednesday December 01, 2021

Lab-leak theory returns; France says arrivals from UK must self-isolate: America peddling conspiracies, says China

May 27, 2021

Beijing: China on Wednesday accused the US of "spreading conspiracy theories and disinformation" as the theory resurfaced that the coronavirus emerged from a Wuhan laboratory, while urging Washington to open its virology facilities to scrutiny.

Led by the US, pressure is mounting for a new probe into the origins of Covid-19 after a World Health Organisation (WHO) mission to China, beset by delays and dogged by political baggage, returned inconclusive findings.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has returned to the spotlight after a report in The Wall Street Journal, citing US intelligence, said three lab workers there were hospitalised in November 2019 with coronavirus-like symptoms, a month before the pandemic’s first declared case.

Repeating an earlier denial of the report, Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, accused the US of "spreading conspiracy theories and disinformation such as a laboratory leak".

The theory that the killer virus leaked from a Chinese lab was originally fuelled by, among others, the administration of former US president Donald Trump.

Zhao said it was "disrespectful" to the WHO probe to revive the theory, and risked an "undermining of global solidarity to fight the virus". Since infecting its first victims in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, the pathogen has struck almost every country in the world, killing more than 3.4 million people and eviscerating national economies.

"If the US really wants full transparency then it should, like China did, invite WHO experts to visit the US and investigate," Zhao added. "Open up Fort Detrick military base as early as possible, and all the bio labs the US has around the world," he said, referring to a US research facility in Maryland.

Meanwhile, people arriving in France from Britain will have to self-isolate to prevent the spread of Covid-19, notably its Indian variant, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

Attal told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting that details of the measure would be given in the coming hours. Germany had already imposed additional measures for people arriving from Britain, he said, "and France will take similar measures".