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US Steps Up Claims Covid-19 May Have Escaped Chinese Lab

US Steps Up Claims Covid-19 May Have Escaped Chinese Lab

The State Department said on Friday it had new information suggesting that the Covid-19 pandemic could have emerged from a Chinese laboratory and not through contact with infected animals, the latest salvo in the Trump administration's efforts to pressure Beijing on the origins of the virus.

Specifically, the US said it had obtained new evidence that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology became ill in the fall of 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak in the surrounding city, with symptoms it said were consistent with Covid-19. or common seasonal diseases.

The department said China's lack of transparency about the origin of the pandemic more than a year ago, as well as efforts to mask early shortcomings in the country's response to the outbreak, make it difficult to draw clear conclusions. But the short, unsigned statement issued by the United States, less than a week before the end of the Trump administration, did not provide data to back up its claims.

"The virus could have arisen naturally from human contact with infected animals, spreading in a pattern consistent with a natural epidemic," according to the State Department. "Alternatively, a laboratory accident could resemble a natural outbreak if the initial exposure includes only a few individuals and is exacerbated by an asymptomatic infection."

A spokesman for the State Department declined to elaborate when asked for further comment.

China has repeatedly rejected allegations that the virus could have emerged from a laboratory. The United States did not say how it obtained the new disease information in the laboratory.

The comments, in a State Department fact sheet, come as China faces criticism for initially preventing some members of a World Health Organization mission from entering China as part of an effort to trace the origin of Covid-19. , saying that they had not passed the health. projections. While clearance was eventually granted to the experts, the WHO had already criticized China for delaying the mission's plans to visit the country.

China has been under scrutiny since the outbreak broke out in and around Wuhan, but the Trump administration also tried to put more blame on authorities in Beijing after the pandemic took off in the United States and deaths soared. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo frequently refer to the disease as the "China virus", the "China plague" and the "Wuhan virus."

For its part, China is mounting a campaign to doubt that the virus originated within its borders. State media have played an investigation suggesting that there were cases in Italy and the US prior to those in Wuhan, hinting that the pathogen could have entered the country through frozen food or packaging.

On Friday it was announced that 2 million people had died worldwide from the outbreak, with nearly 400,000 deaths in the United States.

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