US officials have said that they agree the novel coronavirus most likely has natural origins, but are increasingly supportive of accusations that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab and are lashing out at Beijing for its alleged lack of transparency.
Executive Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Michael J. Ryan said on Friday that the agency was sure that the coronavirus is natural in origin.
Ryan’s remark came during a media briefing where he was asked if the WHO believed that a laboratory in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of the coronavirus and what actions the organisation had taken to establish an actual origin of the infection.
In the meantime, US President Donald Trump said in a press conference that Washington could impose new tariffs on Beijing as a retaliatory measure over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The measure reportedly includes cancelling US debt obligations to China.
The Trump administration, including the president himself, has repeatedly suggested that the virus may have come from a laboratory in Wuhan.
China has so far consistently denied the accusations, stressing the transparency and responsibility of its policies throughout the outbreak.
On 11 March, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. To date, more than 3.2 million coronavirus cases and over 230,000 related deaths have been recorded globally, according to statistics collected by Johns Hopkins University.