Wuhan Institute of Virology Deputy Director Shi Zhengli, also known as China's "bat woman", also urged greater worldwide cooperation in the fight against pandemics. In a social media post, she wrote she would "swear on my life" the pandemic had nothing to do with her lab.
After the COVID-19 outbreak started in Wuhan late previous year and eventually became a global pandemic, the biosafety laboratory in China's Hubei province has been in the eye of a storm as conspiracy theories suggesting the virus could have leaked from the lab started gaining traction.
Shi explained that she and a group of researchers obtained samples of coronavirus on December 30 past year and performed high-throughput sequencing of the samples and the isolation of pathogens.
"After we checked the pathogen within the sample, we found it contained a new coronavirus, which is now called SARS-CoV-2". "If we don't study them, there will possibly be another outbreak, and we wouldn't know them". Then we completed the animal infection experiment with rhesus monkeys on February 9. She once reportedly went missing with data on the coronavirus.
In the English translation of the text of her interview published by state-run channel, there was no reference to her mysterious absence and her tweets denying rumours of her defection.
She said, "Now we have three strains of live viruses but their highest similarity to SARS-CoV-2 only reaches 79.8%". Experts plan to create medicines and reagents to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. "There are many types of bats and other wild animals in nature [which could potentialy be the carriers of many viruses]".
'In fact, like everyone else, we didn't even know the virus existed, ' she said.
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In April, the National Institutes of Health canceled funding to a NY nonprofit that supported research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Separately, a Chinese official raised questions about the virus emerging from the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan.
'Now we have three strains of live viruses.
According to scientists around the world, coronavirus was originated in bats and had emerged from Wuhan. She said her lab didn't have the first virus samples until as late as the end of 2019.
The Statista graph below shows countries with the most cases of COVID-19.
The World Health Organisation has said scientists examining its genetic sequences have ruled that "this virus is natural in origin".