China on Monday refuted the Wall Street Journal's report claiming that three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care, allegedly infecting the virus in November 2019, a month before the pandemic took a global swing.
Suspicions about the escape of novel coronavirus from a bio lab in China have increased as WSJ corroborated an undisclosed US intelligence report stating that the researchers showed common symptoms of both Covid-19 and seasonal illness.
The first Covid-19 case was officially reported by the end of December 2019 in Hubei province. However, the US intelligence findings show that it may have emerged a month earlier, specifying the number of researchers affected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospital visits.
China categorically denied the findings of the report. WSJ also cited the Chinese Foreign Ministry's statement on Sunday. "The U.S. continues to hype the lab leak theory." The statement added that, according to the conclusions drawn by the WHO-led team last month, it was extremely unlikely for a lab leak and that the virus spread from bats to humans was more likely.
While citing a statement from WIV, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that the institute "had not been exposed to Covid-19 before December 30, 2019, and a 'zero-infection' record is kept among its staff and graduate students so far."
"We're not going to make pronouncements that prejudge an ongoing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV-2, but we've been clear that sound and technically credible theories should be thoroughly evaluated by international experts," said a National Security Council spokeswoman, to Reuters adding the Biden administration have suspicions on COVID-19 origins.
A team of scientists led by Peter Daszak, President of a US-based NGO EcoHealth Alliance that conducts research and outreach programs on global health, wrote a letter last year which was published in The Lancet – a weekly medical journal, ruling out the theory of COVID-19 being a lab-made virus.
As doctors and scientists are trying to trace the virus' origin, there is still global pressure on China to provide irrefutable evidence that the virus did not emerge from WIV's labs.