Donald Trump has said he is confident the coronavirus may have originated in a Chinese virology lab.
The US president made the sensational accusation that he has “seen evidence” that Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, not a wildlife market, at a White House media event.
He declined to describe the evidence, but his remarks will ratchet up tensions with Beijing over the origins of the deadly disease.
He also speculated whether China had made a “mistake” at the start of the outbreak or whether anyone had done “something on purpose”.
Trump did not mince words at a White House event on Thursday, when asked if he had seen evidence that gave him a “high degree of confidence” the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Yes, yes I have,” he said, declining to give specifics.
“I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
He also said that the World Health Organisation “should be ashamed of themselves”, describing it as a “press agency” for China.
WHO earlier claimed that it had not been invited to join Beijing’s investigations into the virus.
The Chinese state-backed Wuhan Institute of Virology has dismissed the allegations, and other US officials have downplayed their likelihood.
Most experts believe the virus originated in a market selling wildlife in Wuhan and jumped from animals to people.
Earlier on Thursday, The Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the US said it had ruled out the virus being “manmade” but was still investigating the precise source of the global pandemic.
Trump also said it was possible that China either could not stop the spread of the coronavirus or let it spread.
Trump said of China’s efforts to get to the bottom of how the virus emerged: “At least they seem to be trying to be somewhat transparent with us.
“But we’re going to find out. You’ll be learning in the not-too-distant future. But it’s a terrible thing that happened – whether they made a mistake or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one.
“Or did somebody do something on purpose?” he said.
The coronavirus outbreak has contributed to a deepening rift between the Trump administration and China, with Beijing suggesting the US military might have brought it to China and Trump saying China failed to alert the world to coronavirus risks in a timely and transparent fashion.
The US has now suffered just under 64,000 coronavirus deaths – a figure that dwarfs China’s 4,600 toll, which has been greeted with increasing scepticism.
Trump said yesterday that China’s handling of coronavirus shows it wants him to lose November’s election.
“I don’t want to cast any aspersions,” he said. “But China would like to see Sleepy Joe Biden.
“They would take this country for a ride like never before.”
Daily Mirror online