Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is not drawing “firm conclusions” on allegations that the novel coronavirus — which has now caused devastation worldwide — came from a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Trudeau said Canada has been working with its Five Eyes partners — Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States — on “various” pieces of intelligence regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
But, he said it is “too early to draw firm conclusions.”
Trudeau said Canada will continue to work with intelligence and allies around the world to “find answers to the many questions people are asking.”
Asked by reporters if an investigation had been ordered into the claims, Trudeau said Canada is working with partners and “indeed independently” on “many security issues that are important to Canadians at this point.”
But, he said his government’s main focus “remains on how we are working to protect Canadians.”
China has insisted the laboratory is not to blame, with a spokesperson for its foreign ministry calling the claims “unfounded and purely fabricated out of nothing.”
Experts, too, say this theory is unlikely.
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But, earlier this month, the U.S. announced it would be investigating the possibility that the virus made its way into the human population due to a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
According to U.S. media reports, cables from the U.S. State Department suggest Embassy officials visited the research facility in 2018. After their visit, officials expressed concerns about inadequate safety measures at the facility.
In a previous interview with Global News, Jeffrey Joy, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine whose research focuses on virus evolution, said while the idea that this coronavirus escaped the WIV is “conceivable,” it is also “highly implausible in this case.”
He said the genome shows the virus’ origin and spread occurred in nature, which is a common event for several coronaviruses, including ones that don’t become deadly pandemics.
What’s more, Kristian Anderson, who is studying the novel coronavirus at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California told the Associated Press that the odds of the virus having been accidentally released from the lab in Wuhan are “a million to one,” far less likely than an infection in nature.
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Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, also said there is currently no scientific evidence to support the theory that this novel coronavirus escaped from a lab.
“Indeed, accidental laboratory exposures and escapes have occurred in the past, including the influenza virus and SARS-CoV,” Kindrachuk wrote in an Op-Ed in Forbes.
“However, this week the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff echoed that the weight of evidence continued to suggest natural rather than accidental emergence for SARS-CoV-2.”
Kindrachuk said there has been “no other science supporting the escape theory.”
But, not everyone agrees.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed the theory.
Most recently, on Thursday, Trump told reporters he had been shown evidence that gave him a high degree of confidence, that the virus came from the WIV.
But, he didn’t offer any specifics, saying he was “not allowed” to disclose that type of information.
–With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton
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