The U.S. assistant secretary for health responded to speculation that the new coronavirus strain is the product of Chinese bioweapons research.
“We have no information whatsoever about this being a manufactured virus,” Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, told reporters Tuesday.
The origins of the virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, are not clear, he said before adding there was “a lot more work that needs to be done.” Giroir said he believes the virus probably originated from an animal, as many other coronavirus strains have done.
President Donald Trump has said little about the outbreak that has prompted lockdowns across dozens of Chinese cities, but other top White House officials, including adviser Larry Kudlow, have said the Chinese regime has not been transparent and won’t allow U.S. medical experts into the country to study the virus.
“I wish we did know more. You know, this should not be about politics or for that matter, trade. This is just plain, ordinary health, public health, to help people,” Kudlow told reporters last week, adding that he is “disappointed” with China’s response to handling the outbreak. “The virus is contained in the United States. We don’t know if it’s contained in China.”
The United States offered to send assistance “1,300 deaths ago” on Jan. 6, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in an interview with CNN last Friday. “We made the offer to send the CDC experts in to assist their Chinese colleagues to get to the bottom of key scientific questions,” Azar told CNN. But so far, the Chinese regime hasn’t approved the final clearance to allow them to go in.
The World Health Organization (WHO) came to an agreement to deploy a team of experts, with U.S. officials as part of the group, said Azar. He said they are waiting to go but need China to approve them first. Chinese officials, he added, also need to give WHO full access, otherwise “it won’t be a useful mission.”
Several members of Congress have also questioned China’s response and cooperation so far.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said that “the way the Chinese Communist Party has treated its citizens in response to this outbreak is horrifying … Crackdowns on transparency and information, brave doctors and ordinary citizens facing draconian punishments merely for speaking about the outbreak. it’s unacceptable and must come to an end.”
But one member of Congress has gone a step further. During an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) raised the possibility that the virus was created by the regime.
“Because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China, right now, is not giving evidence on that question at all,” he told the news outlet. “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases,” the senator said.
He was referring to the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, where researchers look into disease pathogens.