Pompeo presses China to allow lab inspections amid COVID-19 pandemic
WASHINGTON: On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged China to allow inspectors to access sensitive laboratories and expressed concern about their health in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Pompeo has declined to rule out the deadly virus leaked out of a laboratory in Wuhan’s Chinese metropolis, a possibility that Beijing strenuously rejected.
“You have to remember — these labs are still open inside of China these labs that contain complex pathogens that were being studied. It’s not just the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Pompeo told reporters.
“It’s important that those materials are being handled in a safe and secure way such that there isn’t accidental release,” Pompeo told reporters.
Pompeo cited nuclear installations as an example, pointing to robust global inspections to ensure health.
He revived worry about China not sharing a sample of the originally discovered virus, scientifically known as SARS-CoV-2.
“We still do not have a sample of the virus, nor has the world had access to the facilities or other locations where this virus may have originally originated inside of Wuhan,” Pompeo said.
Initially, Chinese authorities suppressed reports of the deadly virus including the arrest of a famous whistleblower.
Since then, Chinese scientists have said they believe that the virus had originated late last year on a meat market in Wuhan that had exotic animals butchered.
But concerns arose quickly because of the existence of the maximum-security virology laboratory nearby, with senior US officials taking what was originally an internet conspiracy theory into the mainstream.
Critics say President Donald Trump is willing to shirk responsibility for his own handling of the pandemic that has killed some 45,000 people in the U.S., more than any country.