China lab conspiracy theory dismissed by WHO chief


Heath officials check the listings of people who are to be tested for COVID-19. (Photo: AP)

Claims from conspiracy news sites that COVID-19 originated from a Chinese military lab in Wuhan have been dismissed by the World Health Organization's (WHO) emergencies chief.  

Michael Ryan, responding to a question at a WHO press briefing in Geneva, said: "We have listened again and again to numerous scientists who have looked at the sequences – looked at this virus and we are assured that this virus is natural in origin."

Ryan went on to highlight the importance of establishing "what the natural host of this virus is."

"The primary purpose of doing that is to ensure that we understand the virus more... we understand the animal-human interface and we understand how the animal-human species barrier was breached."

While the origin of the virus is not, and may never be, confirmed, many scientists have posited that it came from an animal-human interaction. The lack of confirmation has allowed conspiracy to flourish. 

Some conspiracy theorists claim the virus was synthesized by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), based in the city where the disease was first identified.

Responding to questions from Reuters, Yuan Zhiming, a professor at WIV and the director of its National Biosafety Laboratory, stated "The WIV does not have the intention nor the ability to design and construct a new coronavirus," adding "Moreover, there is no information within the SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] genome indicating it was man-made."