Loading articles...

Wuhan lab head calls Trump virus leak claims 'pure fabrication'

Last Updated May 24, 2020 at 8:46 am EDT

President Donald Trump points while boarding Air Force One as he departs Thursday, May 21, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Claims promoted by the Trump administration that the global coronavirus pandemic originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the central Chinese city are a “pure fabrication,” the institute’s director said.

Wang Yanyi was quoted by state media Sunday as saying the institute did not have “any knowledge before that nor had we ever met, researched or kept the virus ? We didn’t even know about the existence of the virus, so how could it be leaked from our lab when we didn’t have it?”

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly said they suspect the virus that was first detected in Wuhan was somehow released from the laboratory.

Most scientists say the pathogen that has infected 5.3 million and killed more than 342,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, was passed from bats to humans via an intermediary species likely sold at a wet market in Wuhan late last year.

The virus’ toll continued to ebb in Asia and other parts of the world, with China on Sunday reporting three new confirmed cases and just 79 people remaining in treatment for COVID-19.

The New York Times devoted Sunday’s entire front page to a long list of names of people who have died in the pandemic.

The names and brief descriptions culled from obituaries from around the country fill six columns under the headline “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss.”

“They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us,” read the subheadline.

The U.S. is continuing a cautious state-by-state reopening.

Trump played golf at one of his courses Saturday during the Memorial Day weekend as he urged U.S. states to relax their lockdowns. Yet many Americans remained cautious as the number of confirmed cases nationwide passed 1.6 million.

In California, where many businesses and recreational activities are reopening, officials in Los Angeles County said they would maintain tight restrictions until July 4.

Statewide, New York reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths – 84 – in many weeks in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described as a critical benchmark. The daily death tally peaked at 799 on April 8.

Parts of New Orleans stirred to back life, with some restaurants and businesses opening for the first time in over two months. Some remained closed, especially in the French Quarter, which relies largely on tourist dollars.

Mindful of evangelical Christians who are key to his base ahead of November’s election, Trump on Friday called houses of worship “essential” and urged governors to let them reopen this weekend. However, leaders of many denominations said they plan to move gradually and cautiously.