On the heels of chilling images that showed damaged equipment at a Wuhan virology lab, Chinese state media have released rare footage of scientists toiling at the facility where the global coronavirus outbreak is believed to have originated, according to a report.
Last month, state-owned China Daily published startling photos that showed a broken seal on a freezer at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where 1,500 strains of deadly pathogens — including the novel coronavirus — were stored. The images were quickly deleted.
In the just-released footage from February by state broadcaster CCTV, scientists clad in full personal protective equipment are seen testing samples at the lab, according to the UK’s Sun.
One of them, Zhang Huajun, demonstrates how he and a colleague donned their suits and passed thorough five hermetically sealed chambers before entering the main part of the facility.
Zhang said the $42 million lab, which was opened in 2018, was designed to prevent leaks by allowing air to only flow inside, not the other way around.
Twenty-four scientists can work inside the facility — which contains three testing rooms, two animal storage rooms and one virus bank — at the same time, the Sun reported.
On Saturday, the lab’s deputy director denied that the bug accidentally spread from his facility, which has the highest biosafety level of P4.
The P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in WuhanHector RETAMAL / AFP via Getty I
“There’s no way this virus came from us,” Yuan Zhiming told state media on Saturday.
His denial came days after a fresh round of reports suggesting the novel coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute or another similar lab miles away in the city.
“More and more we’re hearing the story … we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation,” he said.
Yuan also rejected claims the novel coronavirus was artificially engineered, according to news.com.au.
“They have no evidence or knowledge. This is entirely based on speculation,” he said of the US. “Part of the purpose is to confuse people, to interfere with our entire epidemic activities or our scientific activities.”
Two reports — one by Fox News and another in the Washington Post — have quoted anonymous sources raising concerns that the virus may have accidentally escaped from the facility.
Yuan admitted that the lab is studying “different areas related to the coronavirus,” but told the English-language state broadcaster CGTN that none of his staff has been infected.