China confirms US accusations that it destroyed early samples of the novel coronavirus, but says it was done for ‘biosafety reasons’

Business Insider reports China has confirmed that it had ordered unauthorized laboratories to destroy samples of the new coronavirus but insisted that it was due to “biosafety reasons.”

The announcement comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly said that China refused to give virus samples taken from patients infected with COVID-19 in late December last year and that officials had destroyed early samples, according to South China Morning Post.

Liu Dengfeng, an official with the Chinese National Health Commission’s science and education department, said in a Beijing briefing on Friday that the samples were destroyed to “prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens.”

He insisted that this was not done to cover-up or hide samples from other countries, but was done strictly for biosafety reasons.”The remarks made by some US officials were taken out of context and intended to confuse,” Liu said.

Liu said that when the pneumonia-like disease 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.

The official said that this was standard practice in China for the handling any highly pathogenic samples.

Chinese public health laws specify that laboratories not meeting the requirements must either transfer them to a qualified depositary for safekeeping or destroy them.

Liu Dengfeng did not mention the Trump administration’s claims that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

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