Donald Trump claims to have seen evidence to substantiate the unproven theory that the coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, despite US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that the virus was “not manmade or genetically modified”.
“We’re going to see where it comes from,” Trump said at a White House event on Thursday. “We have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people, and others. We’re going to put it all together. I think we will have a very good answer eventually. And China might even tell us.”
Pressed to explain what evidence he had seen that the virus originated in a Chinese lab, Trump responded, “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
Prior to the White House event, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the clearinghouse for the web of US spy agencies, issued a statement asserting that the intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified”.
“The intelligence community will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the statement added.
Trump’s comments came as global infections passed 3.25 million, a third of which were in the US, and where the death toll was approaching 63,000. Recoveries worldwide have passed 1 million.
The US president is increasingly making Beijing’s handling of the outbreak a major issue for his November re-election campaign and has repeatedly threatened retaliation against Beijing.
The president and his allies have repeatedly touted the theory – for which there is no evidence – that an infectious disease lab in Wuhan, the center of the Chinese outbreak, was the source of the global pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 worldwide.
The World Health Organization’s representative in China, Gauden Galea, said the organisation has made requests of Chinese authorities to join research into the origins of the virus. “We know that some national investigation is happening but at this stage we have not been invited to join,” he told Sky News in remarks published on Thursday.
He said the WHO has not been able to look at logs from two laboratories in Wuhan that were working on viruses but that researchers are convinced the disease was not manufactured.
“From all available evidence, WHO colleagues in our three-level system are convinced that the origins are in Wuhan and that it is a naturally occurring, not a manufactured, virus,” he said.