The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed this week that the United States has been looking into whether the coronavirus pandemic may have started at a Chinese lab in Wuhan.
At a Pentagon press briefing on Tuesday, Army Gen. Mark Milley was asked whether the Pentagon has evidence that the “virus began in a Chinese lab and maybe was released accidentally.”
“There’s a lot of rumor and speculation in a wide variety of media, the blog sites, etc,” Milley replied. “It should be no surprise to you that we’ve taken a keen interest in that and we’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that. And I would just say, at this point, it’s inconclusive although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural,” he added. “But we don’t know for certain.”
Milley isn’t the only official who is willing to entertain the possibility that COVID-19 actually emerged from a laboratory near Wuhan.
Fox News quoted “a member of the U.K. government’s emergency committee of senior officials” as saying, “There is a credible alternative view (to the zoonotic theory) based on the nature of the virus. Perhaps it is no coincidence that there is a laboratory in Wuhan.”
The network also ran an opinion piece by foreign affairs expert Gordon Chang, who wrote that “many Chinese believe the virus either was deliberately released or accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a P4-level bio-safety facility.”
“This lab, known for studying coronaviruses, is not far from the market that had been initially identified as the source of the outbreak,” he added.
Lab triggered safety concerns earlier
Comments like these come at the same time that leaked State Department cables published by the Washington Post reveal concern among U.S. diplomats at about safety protocols at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
“During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,” reads a 2018 message from two individuals assigned to the American embassy’s environment, science, and health sections.
However, others are downplaying efforts to find out if COVID-19 originated in a lab, dismissing claims that the disease could be a bioweapon. One of them is Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, who told Fox News “there is nothing to that” theory.
“Someone asked me if I was worried. That is not something that I’m worried about. I think, you know, right now what we’re concerned about is how do we treat people who are sick, how do we prevent people from getting sick. But no, I am not worried about this as a bioweapon,” he stressed.
Last month, the Chinese government drew ire from President Donald Trump for suggesting that the coronavirus may have been the work of the U.S. military.