Yuan Zhiming, a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology speaks at a press conference, July 22, 2021. (Screenshot/China Daily)
Staff members at the Wuhan Institute of Virology never engineered or leaked the novel coronavirus, and none of them ever contracted COVID-19 virus, a researcher from the institute said on Thursday.
Yuan Zhiming, a researcher at the institute in Wuhan, Hubei province, added that the institute had not come in contact, stored or researched the virus before Dec 30, 2019. Yuan is also the director of the National Biosafety Laboratory in Wuhan.
"The infrastructure, management, team composition and working protocols at the institute's P4 biosafety laboratory are the same as other P4 labs in operation," he said during a media briefing held by the State Council Information Office. "Since the laboratory began operating in 2018, no laboratory leaks or human infections have ever occurred."
Yuan said the laboratory has stable and reliable biosafety precautions in place, and has established a set of complete biosafety management systems and a professional team to bolster, manage and maintain its operation.
Refuting the allegation that three workers at the institute were infected with the disease in November 2019, Yuan said people propagating the claim were never able to provide names of the alleged researchers. "The claim has been created out of thin air," he said.
He said unfounded accusations that implicate the institute as the source of the outbreak has disturbed the institute's scientific research work and disrupted international communication and cooperation.
Earlier this year, Chinese and international experts visited Wuhan to study the origin of the virus, which was organized by the World Health Organization.
Liang Wannian, head of Chinese experts on the WHO-convened mission, said the team had conducted field visits at the institute, and in particular, learned about the institute's implementation of management and safety regulations, as well as its past and current research projects.
The mission had reached the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that the virus originated from a laboratory, he said.
Chinese researchers suggested that more probe should be directed to countries where P4 laboratories had not been visited by international experts, reviewing possible safety risks and laboratory incidents there, Liang said.