Sunday 3 May 2020

Wuhan virus lab 'cover-up': Startling photos of scientists wearing little protection as they handle deadly bat samples vanish from website of Chinese institute at the centre of global suspicion over pandemic

Wuhan virus lab 'cover up'
Pictures which appear to show slack safety standards at the Chinese laboratory at the centre of international sus­picion over Covid-19 have been systematically deleted from its website - as Donald Trump continues to ramp up the pressure on Beijing over its potential role in the outbreak. 

During the past month, Wuhan's Institute of Virology has removed photographs of scientists working in its laboratories and edited out references to visits by US diplomats who subsequently raised the alarm about the laboratory's work on bats. US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he had seen intelligence that gave him a 'high degree of confidence' that the global crisis had its origins in the institute - a month after The Mail on Sunday first revealed that British Cabinet Ministers had received classified briefings raising the possibility of a leak from the institute. 

Downing Street did not take issue with President Trump's remarks. 'There are clearly questions that need to be answered about the origin and spread of the virus,' a spokesman for Boris Johnson said. Pictured: Researchers capture bats in a cave and the wild with no protective equipment. Inset: Donald Trump, left, a bat, right.

The edited material includes a page of the institute's website showing pictures of staff entering caves to take swabs from bats carrying coronaviruses – with the scientists wearing minimal protective equipment. And the institute appears to have also removed the reference to a visit to the institute in March 2018 of Rick Switzer, a science and technology expert from the US embassy in Beijing.
As a result of Mr Switzer's visit, cables were sent to the US State Department from the embassy warning about the risks of the bat experiments. One read: 'During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they [the diplomats] noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.'
 Last month, The Mail on Sunday published alarming pictures from inside the institute showing a broken seal on the door of one of the refrigerators holding 1,500 different strains of virus. President Trump's remarks were misreported by some media outlets, including the BBC and The Guardian, as placing him at odds with US spy agencies, which said that the virus was not manmade or genetically engineered. 
In fact, that has long been the working assumption within security sources on both sides of the Atlantic. Trump was referring to claims that the virus could have leaked by accident from the institute. 

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