A fact-finding team of World Health Organization scientists on Wednesday visited the Chinese lab that US officials have suggested could be the source of the coronavirus pandemic.
The WHO’S team spent about 3-1/2 hours at the heavily-guarded Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city where the global pandemic was first detected in late 2019.
While secretive about their work there, the team confirmed that they met Shi Zhengli, the lab’s deputy director dubbed “Bat Woman” for her work with bat viruses, and one of the first to isolate the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“Extremely important meeting today with staff at WIV including Dr. Shi Zhengli. Frank, open discussion. Key questions asked & answered,” WHO team member Peter Daszak said on Twitter.
“Very interesting. Many questions,” Thea Fischer, a Danish member of the team, called from her car as it sped away from the lab.
The Wuhan lab’s long-standing work with bat viruses quickly thrust it in the spotlight when COVID-19 first emerged in its neighborhood late 2019, leading to the city of 11 million under a strict 76-day lockdown.
A member of the WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease, takes pictures from the balcony of a hotel in Wuhan.REUTERS/Aly Song
President Trump and his administration repeatedly highlighted the institution over concerns the virus emerged from a “lab leak.”
Just last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said new intelligence had only heightened suspicions, with the Department of State producing a “fact sheet” detailing claims — one that now appears to be offline.
A member of the World Health Organization team, walks near a hotel in Wuhan, China.REUTERS/Aly Song
The lab as well as the Chinese government have repeatedly denied the claims, with one official recently dismissing Pompeo as “Mr. Lies.”
The WHO team on Wednesday also spoke with experts from Huazhong Agricultural University, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
“It should be noted that virus traceability is a complex scientific issue, and we need to provide sufficient space for experts to conduct scientific research,” Wang said.
Security personnel keep watch outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit by the World Health Organization.REUTERS/Thomas Peter
“China will continue to cooperate with WHO in an open, transparent and responsible manner, and make its contribution to better prevent future risks and protect the lives and health of people in all countries.”
With Post wires