Shi Zhengli, a virologist known as China’s ‘Bat Woman’
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In a rare interview Wuhan virologist Dr Shi Zhengli, dubbed the 'bat woman', has denied claims that the Covid virus came from a lab.
World leaders discussed the theory when they met at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, amid claims the virus could have been unleashed in an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The UK doesn't believe the pandemic leaked from a lab in Wuhan, the Foreign Secretary said, but only "for now."
Dominic Raab said the UK's "best information" remained that it "jumped" from animals to humans – but admitted they did not have "all the answers."
US President Joe Biden said of the issue: “I have not reached a conclusion because our intelligence community is not certain yet.
An investigation found it was 'extremely unlikely' the virus has escaped from a lab
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
“Whether or not this was a consequence from the marketplace of a bat interfacing with animals… or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory.”
He added: “It’s important to know the answer to that.”
In a new interview Dr Zhengli denied the claims that the virus was a man-made disaster.
She told the New York Times: "My lab has never conducted or cooperated in conducting gain-of-function experiments that enhance the virulence of viruses."
She said that claims the lab bolstered the virus and kept information about it's spread secret were "speculation rooted in utter distrust" and said: "This is no longer a question of science."
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
She added: "I'm sure that I did nothing wrong. So I have nothing to fear."
In a text message she was reported to have said: "I don’t know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist."
She also denied recent reports that three researchers from her institute had sought treatment at a hospital in November 2019 for flu-like symptoms before the first Covid cases were reported.
The city was at the centre of the initial outbreak in December 2019.
Boris Johnson and Joe Biden keep open mind on whether Covid came from Wuhan lab
WHO boss says Wuhan lab leak theory not ruled out in bid to discover Covid 'origin'
A team of experts from the World Health Organisation and China said in February that the virus was "extremely unlikely" to have entered the human population as a result of a laboratory-related incident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
But the WHO has said "all hypotheses still remain on the table" and wants to carry out a second phase of its work, while US President Joe Biden has ordered an investigation into the origins, including the leak theory.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has previously urged China to fully cooperate with investigations, said grieving families should have answers over the theory.
He added: "The respect these people deserve is knowing what the origin of this disease is."