The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China has remained under the world's media glare ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The Wuhan Institute, one of the most reputed institutions in China in virology research, has been accused of being involved in the 'leak' of COVID-19, either accidentally or as a result of research into modified viruses.
The Chinese government on Thursday reacted angrily to the WHO's plans for a second phase of a study into the origin of COVID-19, including evaluating the possibility of it leaking from a lab.
National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin on Thursday termed the lab leak theory as a "rumour running counter to common sense", reports said.
Zeng declared no staff of the Wuhan Institute had been infected with COVID and the facility had no viruses "that can directly infect human beings". He was quoted by Global Times as saying, "WIV has no man-made viruses and has never conducted gain-of-function researches". Gain-of-function research involves the modification of the characteristics of a disease to increase its transmissibility and virulence. The practice, while already controversial, has attracted further criticism on account of the pandemic. The Wuhan Institute has been accused of carrying out gain-of-function research.
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Referring to media reports earlier this year that three staffers of the Wuhan Institute had fallen ill in November 2019, a professor of the facility argued, "no one can provide the names of the patients despite the institute's demand", Global Times reported.
Professor Yuan Zhiming, who is also director of China's National Biosafety Laboratory, declared, "Before December 30,2019,WIV did not contact, preserve or study the novel coronavirus,and it never designed, made or leaked the virus... No employees or students at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were infected with the coronavirus... No pathogen leakage or human infection has occurred in Wuhan's P4 lab since it was put into operation in 2018," Global Times reported.