Wuhan lab researchers handle bats in 2017 promo footage
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A joint report earlier this year by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Chinese experts concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city at the centre of the Covid outbreak. However, the investigation has faced criticism amid claims the WHO scientists were given only limited access when they visited China. New footage obtained by Sky News Australia has since proved that bats were kept in the Wuhan lab.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology showed how it kept live bats in cages in an official Chinese Academy of Sciences video to mark the launch of the new biosafety level 4 laboratory in May 2017.
President Joe Biden has since ordered US intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts to probe the causes of the outbreak, as the “lab leak” theory has gathered strength in America.
China responded by accusing the US of “smear campaigns and blame shifting”, but the WHO has given its support to a “second phase” investigation.
At the news conference to mark the end of the G7 summit in Cornwall, Boris Johnson said that the best advice available to him remained that it jumped species from an animal.
However, he said that it was important to keep an open mind as to what exactly happened.
“At the moment, the advice that we have had is that it doesn’t look as though this particular disease of zoonotic origin came from a lab,” he said.
“Clearly anybody sensible would want to keep an open mind about that.”
At his closing news conference, Mr Biden said that investigators needed access to laboratories in China to determine exactly what had happened.
Boris Johnson discusses Wuhan lab theory
“I have not reached a conclusion because our intelligence community is not certain yet whether or not this was a consequence of – from the marketplace – a bat interfacing with animals in the environment that caused this COVID-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory,” he said.
The final summit communique called for a “timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened phase 2 COVID-19 origins study” including in China.
Speaking to reporters at the summit on Saturday, the head of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that after almost 3.75 million deaths worldwide, people deserved to know the source of the outbreak.
“We believe that all hypotheses should be open, and we need to proceed to the second phase to really know the origins,” he said.
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China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, expressed Beijing’s serious concern to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that some people in the United States were spreading the “absurd story” about the coronavirus escaping from a Wuhan laboratory.
Yang, head of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of China’s ruling Communist Party, also told Blinken in a phone call on Friday that Washington should handle Taiwan-related issues “carefully and appropriately”, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The call took place at time when the two countries are at odds over issues ranging from trade and technology to human rights and the coronavirus. Washington should work with Beijing to put ties “back on track,” Yang said.
Yang, who had a fiery exchange with Blinken in Alaska in March during the Biden administration’s first high-level meeting with China, said Beijing firmly opposed what he called “abominable actions” over the pandemic which he said were being used to slander China, CCTV said.
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