Trump, aides float outlier theory on origins of coronavirus
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and some of his officials are flirting with an outlier theory that the new coronavirus was set loose on the world by a Chinese lab that let it escape. Without the weight of evidence, they’re trying to blame China for sickness and death from COVID-19 in the United States.
“More and more, we’re hearing the story,” Trump says. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adds: “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers — that China hasn’t shared the answers — I think is very, very telling.”
A scientific consensus is still evolving. But experts overwhelmingly say analysis of the new coronavirus’ genome rules out the possibility that it was engineered by humans, as some conspiracy theories have suggested.
Nor is it likely that the virus emerged from a negligent laboratory in China, they say. “I would put it on a list of 1,000 different scenarios,” said Nathan Grubaugh of Yale University, who studies the epidemiology of microbial disease.
Scientists say the the virus arose naturally in bats. They say the leading theory is that infection among humans began at an animal market in Wuhan, China, probably from an animal that got the virus from a bat.
Even so, Pompeo and others are pointing fingers at an institute that is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and has done groundbreaking research tracing the likely origins of the SARS virus, finding new bat viruses and discovering how they could jump to people.
“We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was,” Pompeo said Wednesday on Fox News. The institute has an address 8 miles, or 13 kilometers, from the market.
U.S. officials say the American Embassy in Beijing did flag concerns about potential...