China confirms ordering 'unauthorised labs' to destroy early COVID-19 samples

WION Web Team New Delhi, India May 15, 2020, 06.31 PM(IST)

China President Xi Jinping Photograph:( Reuters )

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Unauthorised labs that obtained samples in the early stage of the outbreak had to destroy them or send them to a municipal centre for disease control and prevention for storage.

China confirmed on Friday that it had commanded unauthorised laboratories to destroy samples of the coronavirus in the early stage of the outbreak.

Liu Dengfeng, an official with the National Health Commission’s science and education department, said this was done at unauthorised labs to ''prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens''.

According to him, when the pneumonia-like illness was first reported in Wuhan, ''national-level professional institutes'' were working to identify the pathogen that was causing it.

''Based on comprehensive research and expert opinion, we decided to temporarily manage the pathogen causing the pneumonia as Class II, highly pathogenic and imposed biosafety requirements on sample collection, transport and experimental activities, as well as destroying the samples,'' he said.

Those handling virus samples were ordered not to provide them to any institutions or labs without approval, as per a provincial health commission notice issued in February.

Unauthorised labs that obtained samples in the early stage of the outbreak had to destroy them or send them to a municipal centre for disease control and prevention for storage.

However, he defended the move by saying that this was in line with China’s standard practice for handling highly pathogenic samples, which should not be done by labs that do not meet the requirements.

Tensions have escalated between Beijing and Washington as they trade accusations over the origin of the virus, which has killed more than 300,000 people worldwide, and China is under mounting international pressure to allow an inquiry into its handling of the pandemic.

Both US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly said that Beijing declined to provide virus samples taken from patients when the contagion began in China late last year, and that Chinese authorities had destroyed early samples.

 

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