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Did coronavirus start in Chinese lab? US investigating COVID-19 origin

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic alongside Vice President Mike Pence and Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, during in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, March 18, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/ABACAPRESS.COM/TNS)

Where did coronavirus start? The first COVID-19 cases were reported in Wuhan, China, and rumors suggested the virus originated from eating unusual animals in wet markets or was possibly even created in a laboratory.

CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post and Yahoo News report the U.S. government is investigating the possibility that the novel coronavirus’ origin is a Chinese lab. Sources in U.S. intelligence and national security tell CNN that it’s premature to draw any conclusions, but the theory is reportedly being pushed by President Donald Trump and some Republicans hoping to deflect or place blame.

Sources briefed on the details tell Fox News that “there is increasing confidence” that the novel coronavirus likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory — not as a bioweapon, but to demonstrate China’s ability to identify and combat viruses as well as the United States. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, is believed to be a naturally occurring strain of coronavirus that may have had its initial, bat-to-human transmission with “patient zero” — someone who worked in the Wuhan Institute of Virology — and then accidentally or unknowingly spread it among the Wuhan population.

According to U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by The Washington Post, concerns about safety standards at the Wuhan biolab were raised in 2018, suggesting the lab’s handling of contagious virus “represented a risk for a new SARS-like pandemic.”

Yahoo News, which interviewed nine current and former intelligence and national security officials, notes the Chinese government denied the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has done research on coronaviruses that originate in bats, was to blame. China officials said it likely started at a nearby food market, but there was no evidence that it sold bats and the first confirmed patient didn’t have any connection to the market.

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This may be the “costliest government cover-up of all time,” one unidentified source told Fox News.

As of Wednesday, the coronavirus has infected more than 2 million people and killed over 138,000 worldwide; the U.S. now has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, with 639,000 confirmed and 30,000 deaths. President Trump has previously referred to it as a “Chinese virus,” but did not say if he believes that it may have originated in a Chinese lab.

“More and more we’re hearing the story… we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation,” Trump said in a White House press briefing Wednesday.

According to CNN, Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mark Milley confirmed that intelligence agencies are taking “a hard look” at the question of whether the novel coronavirus originated in a lab.

“I would just say, at this point, it’s inconclusive although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural (origin). But we don’t know for certain,” Milley told reporters on Tuesday.

“What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News. “We know there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There is still lots to learn. The United States government is working diligently to figure it out.”

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© 2020 Syracuse Media Group