Wuhan virology lab head says four infection cases of COVID-19 and flu in early 2020 were not lab staff
Published: Jun 09, 2021 07:29 PM
Wuhan Institute of Virology Photo:VCG

Wuhan Institute of Virology Photo:VCG

The Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory in Wuhan Institute of Virology has kept annually the serum samples of lab staff and no reports of any abnormal diseases were received, and the four infection cases of COVID-19 and influenza found during a retrospective study of samples in January 2020 were not lab staff, Yuan Zhiming, Director of the institute's Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory said, according to the Chinese version of WHO-China joint study released by China's National Health Commission on late Tuesday. 

The Chinese version of the WHO-China joint study, following the publication of the English version by the WHO on March 30, contained more information on reports of the WHO and Chinese experts visiting the institute on February 3 as well as response to "lab-leak" conspiracies. 

Yuan said that lab staff have to report daily about their health condition since the epidemic, and the antibody tests of COVID-19 for all staff turned negative. Serum samples are kept annually for laboratory staff, and no reports of any abnormal disease were received. No disease was diagnosed, and all staff members tested negative for novel coronavirus antibodies.

He explained that the lab and the Wuhan Union Hospital of China conducted retrospective studies on 1,001 samples from patients at the hospital and found four infection cases of flu and COVID-19 in 700 samples in January 2020. The four cases were not lab staff. 

In the Chinese version report, Shi Zhengli, dubbed China's "Bat Woman" from the institute, also responded to the deaths of miners in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Shi said that she tested the samples of the miners three months after they were sick, and went to the mine seven times between 2012 and 2015 but did not find any virus resembling novel coronavirus. The miners were most likely to be infected with a fungus when cleaning bird dung, Shi said. 

Shi said the matter had been clarified in an addendum to the Nature article.

Although Chinese and international scientists have repeatedly refuted the "lab-leak" conspiracies, some Western countries including the US have kept hyping it. The US and EU are expected to jointly call for progress on a "transparent, evidence-based, and expert-led WHO-convened phase 2 study on the origins of COVID-19, that is free from interference" during a meeting of the leaders in Brussels later this month, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. 

In response, Wang Wenbing, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at Wednesday's routine press briefing that the politicized approach, which increasingly deviates from the purpose of virus origins study, has not only severely impacted the anti-epidemic efforts of the US, but also exerted a negative impact on international cooperation. 

Since the epidemic, some US politicians and media have been stigmatizing the virus, spreading baseless theories about laboratory leaks, groundlessly attacking and discrediting the China-WHO joint study and using intelligence agencies to carry out so-called investigations, Wang said. 

Wang said that the US should immediately stop political manipulation, shoulder its due responsibility, and let the study of virus origins return to science, and make a responsible explanation of the truth about Fort Detrick and other more than 200 biological laboratories the US has set up around the world as soon as possible. 

"We also hope that relevant parties will resist any politicization of virus origins and do something concrete for international cooperation in fighting the epidemic, Wang said. 

Global Times