US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested coronavirus may have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, despite the US intelligence being on the record saying that is not the case.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week" programme on Sunday (May 3), the Secretary of State said: "I can tell you there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan. The best experts so far seem to think it was man-made."
On April 30, the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) issued a press release saying the following:
“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to U.S. policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China. The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified."
'No evidence' from United States
On Monday (May 4) the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had received no evidence or data from the US government to back up Pompeo's claim.
“From our perspective, this remains speculative,” WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said. “But like any evidence-based organization, we would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus.”
Ryan reiterated that the evidence and advice that the UN health agency has received suggest that the novel coronavirus is of natural origin.
Both Pompeo and US President Donald Trump say they have seen evidence suggesting that it could be from the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab.
“If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared,” Ryan told reporters in Geneva. “But it’s difficult for WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that specific regard.”
'China has a history of infecting the world'
The US Secretary of State has stressed that he had no reason to believe that the virus was deliberately spread but he ramped up already harsh US criticism of the Chinese for their response to the outbreak.
"Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories," Pompeo added on the Sunday broadcast.
"These are not the first times that we've had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab. And so, while the intelligence community continues to do its work, they should continue to do that, and verify so that we are certain."
It comes only days after US president Donald Trump blamed China for its handling of the outbreak.
The US has had the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths, more than 66,300, as well as the highest number of reported Covid-19 cases, over 1.1 million.
Worldwide, the outbreak has infected more than 3.4 million people and killed over 246,000, according to the same Johns Hopkins University tally based on figures supplied by government health authorities around the globe.