Global coronavirus cases rise above 13 million

By Gayle Issa

(Reuters) – Global coronavirus infections passed 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, marking another milestone in the spread of the disease which has killed more than half a million people in seven months.

The first case was reported in China in early January and it took three months to reach one million cases. It has taken just five days to climb to 13 million cases from 12 million recorded on July 8.

The number of cases is around triple that of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been more than 568,500 deaths linked to the coronavirus so far, within the same range as the number of yearly influenza deaths reported worldwide. The first death was reported on Jan. 10 in Wuhan, China, before infections and fatalities surged in Europe and then later in the United States.

Many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Other places, such as the Australian city of Melbourne, are implementing a second round of shutdowns.

The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating the fastest in Latin America. The Americas account for more than half the world’s infections and half the deaths.

The United States reported a daily global record of 69,070 new infections on July 10. In, 1.86 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 72,000 people have died.

India, the country with the third-highest number of infections, has been contending with an average of 23,000 new infections each day since the beginning of July.

In countries with limited testing capacity, case numbers reflect only a proportion of total infections. Experts say official data likely under-represents both infections and deaths.

(Reporting by Gayle Issa; Editing by Frances Kerry, Nick Macfie and Toby Chopra)

WHO advance team on way to China to set up probe into virus origin

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – An advance team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has left for China to organise an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus which sparked the global pandemic, a spokeswoman said on Friday.

The virus is believed to have emerged in a wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, since then closed, after jumping the species barrier from the animal kingdom to infect humans.

The two WHO experts, specialists in animal health and epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to determine the scope and itinerary of the investigation, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said, declining to name them.

“They have gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party that is to work out the scope,” she told a briefing.

This would involve negotiations on issues including the composition of the fuller team, she added.

“One of the big issues that everybody is interested in, and of course that’s why we’re sending an animal health expert, is to look at whether or not it jumped from species to a human and what species it jumped from,” Harris said.

“We know it’s very, very similar to the virus in the bat, but did it go through an intermediate species? This is a question we all need answered,” she said.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have said it may have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, although they have presented no evidence for this and China strongly denies it. Scientists and U.S. intelligence agencies have said it emerged in nature.

“If there was wrongdoing – and we may never know that for sure – it will be very hard to uncover,” Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., told Reuters.

“The wet market was closed immediately. There is no independent record, evaluation or investigation of a potential zoonotic source, so it will be very hard to go back and piece together,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Gareth Jones)

Global coronavirus deaths top half a million

By Jane Wardell and Cate Cadell

SYDNEY/BEIJING (Reuters) – The death toll from COVID-19 surpassed half a million people on Sunday, according to a Reuters tally, a grim milestone for the global pandemic that seems to be resurgent in some countries even as other regions are still grappling with the first wave.

The respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus has been particularly dangerous for the elderly, although other adults and children are also among the 501,000 fatalities and 10.1 million reported cases.

While the overall rate of death has flattened in recent weeks, health experts have expressed concerns about record numbers of new cases in countries like the United States, India and Brazil, as well as new outbreaks in parts of Asia.

More than 4,700 people are dying every 24 hours from COVID-19-linked illness, according to Reuters calculations based on an average from June 1 to 27.

That equates to 196 people per hour, or one person every 18 seconds.

About one-quarter of all the deaths so far have been in the United States, the Reuters data shows. The recent surge in cases has been most pronounced in a handful of Southern and Western states that reopened earlier and more aggressively. U.S. officials on Sunday reported around 44,700 new cases and 508 additional deaths.

Case numbers are also growing swiftly in Latin America, on Sunday surpassing those diagnosed in Europe, making the region the second most affected by the pandemic, after North America.

On the other side of the world, Australian officials were considering reimposing social distancing measures in some regions on Monday after reporting the biggest one-day rise in infections in more than two months.

The first recorded death from the new virus was on Jan. 9, a 61-year-old man from the Chinese city of Wuhan who was a regular shopper at a wet market that has been identified as the source of the outbreak.

In just five months, the COVID-19 death toll has overtaken the number of people who die annually from malaria, one of the most deadly infectious diseases.

The death rate averages out to 78,000 per month, compared with 64,000 AIDS-related deaths and 36,000 malaria deaths, according to 2018 figures from the World Health Organization.

CHANGING BURIAL RITES

The high number of deaths has led to changes to traditional and religious burial rites around the world, with morgues and funeral businesses overwhelmed and loved ones often barred from bidding farewell in person.

In Israel, the custom of washing the bodies of Muslim deceased is not permitted, and instead of being shrouded in cloth, they must be wrapped in a plastic body bag. The Jewish tradition of Shiva where people go to the home of mourning relatives for seven days has also been disrupted.

In Italy, Catholics have been buried without funerals or a blessing from a priest. In New York, city crematories were at one point working overtime, burning bodies into the night as officials scouted for temporary interment sites.

In Iraq, former militiamen have dropped their guns to instead dig graves for coronavirus victims at a specially created cemetery. They have learned how to conduct Christian, as well as Muslim, burials.

ELDERLY AT RISK

Public health experts are looking at how demographics affect the death rates in different regions. Some European countries with older populations have reported higher fatality rates, for instance.

An April report by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control looked at more than 300,000 cases in 20 countries and found that about 46% of all fatalities were over the age of 80.

In Indonesia, hundreds of children are believed to have died, a development health officials have attributed to malnutrition, anemia and inadequate child health facilities.

Health experts caution that the official data likely does not tell the full story, with many believing that both cases and deaths have likely been under reported in some countries.

(Reporting by Jane Wardell in Sydney and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Daniel Wallis)

Explainer: Are asymptomatic COVID-19 patients safe or silent carriers?

By Cate Cadell and Roxanne Liu

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said 300 symptomless carriers of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, had not been found to be infectious, in a bid to reassure people as countries ease restrictions. But some experts say asymptomatic infections are common, presenting a huge challenge in the control of the disease.

WHAT IS ASYMPTOMATIC AND PRE-SYMPTOMATIC?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200402-sitrep-73-covid-19.pdf asymptomatic cases as those who don’t show symptoms but have been confirmed infected through a lab test. WHO notes there are few reports of truly asymptomatic cases.

The incubation period, or the time a person takes to show symptoms after getting infected, is the pre-symptomatic phase, the WHO says. Carriers can infect others during this period.

Health experts are not yet sure whether asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases are infectious. Some say data so far suggests those cases are probably equally likely to be able to spread infection.

The WHO agrees that pre-symptomatic carriers are infectious, and adds that there is also a possibility – although little evidence so far – that people who are asymptomatic may also transmit the virus. The WHO had said in early April that there had been no documented asymptomatic transmissions.

WHAT ELSE DOES CHINA SAY?

China has reported around 83,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. It does not include asymptomatic cases in that total official count, but began reporting them separately on a daily basis on March 31.

That has raised concerns about Beijing’s commitment to transparency, and some experts say it could also paint a misleading picture of how the virus spreads.

“If you watch (such asymptomatic cases) really closely, you would see something … that probably fits with a more realistic mild disease than a complete asymptomatic,” Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland said.

“But the term is around now and it’s going to stick. It’s a nice piece of theatre, but I don’t think it’s going to give useful information.”

Asymptomatic cases under medical observation in China dropped to 357 as of Tuesday from 1,541 as of March 30.

Wuhan has tested almost its entire population of 11 million and found no new COVID-19 cases.

Wuhan’s low rate of symptomless carriers is in line with China’s previous reporting, said Zhong Nanshan, the government’s senior medical adviser, adding that the result showed that the country didn’t cover up the epidemic as some U.S. politicians claimed.

HOW ABOUT REST OF ASIA?

Some countries in Asia include asymptomatic carriers in their total confirmed cases.

In Vietnam, which has just over 300 COVID-19 cases, almost 37% were symptomless, according to health ministry data.

Researchers concluded that asymptomatic infection was common and found two asymptomatic patients had infected at least four other people.

South Korea, which had early success in taming the outbreak through aggressive testing, said 20%-30% were asymptomatic. A senior health official said the virus could be widely transmitted during the incubation period, but asymptomatic patients were less likely to transmit it.

Singapore, which has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia, does not give data on asymptomatic cases but has said an overwhelming majority of positive cases in its crowded migrant workers’ dormitories show mild or no symptoms.

The Philippines said about 13% of its nearly 19,000 cases were asymptomatic. In India, some 28% of 40,184 people who tested positive between Jan. 22 and April 30 were asymptomatic, according to a study.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell and Roxanne Liu in Beijing; Additional reporting by Kate Kelland in London, John Mair in Sydney, James Pearson in Hanoi, John Geddie in Singapore, Neil Jerome Morales in Manila, Sangmi Cha in Seoul, Rocky Swift in Tokyo and Miyoung Kim in Singapore; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh in Singapore; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Pompeo says ‘significant’ evidence that new coronavirus emerged from Chinese lab

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the new coronavirus emerged from a Chinese laboratory, but did not dispute U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that it was not man-made.

“There is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the virus that emerged late last year in China and has killed about 240,000 people around the world, including more than 67,000 in the United States.

Pompeo then briefly contradicted a statement issued last Thursday by the top U.S. spy agency that said the virus did not appear to be man-made or genetically modified. That statement undercut conspiracy theories promoted by anti-China activists and some supporters of President Donald Trump who suggest it was developed in a Chinese government biological weapons laboratory.

“The best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point,” Pompeo said. When the interviewer pointed out that was not the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, Pompeo backtracked, saying: “I’ve seen what the intelligence community has said. I have no reasonto believe that they’ve got it wrong.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on Pompeo’s comments.

China’s Global Times, run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in an editorial responding to Pompeo’s Sunday interview that he did not have any evidence the virus came from the lab in Wuhan and that he was “bluffing,” calling on the United States to present the evidence.

“The Trump administration continues to engage in unprecedented propaganda warfare while trying to impede global efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” the editorial said.

Thursday’s report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it concurred with “the wide scientific consensus” that the disease was not man-made.

U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reporting and analysis have said for weeks that they do not believe Chinese scientists developed the coronavirus in a government biological weapons lab from which it then escaped.

Rather, they have said they believe it was either introduced through human contact with wildlife at a meat market in the central city of Wuhan, or could have escaped from one of two Wuhan government laboratories believed to be conducting civilian research into possible biological hazards.

Pompeo said on Thursday it was not known whether the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a meat market, or somewhere else. Trump said the same day that he was confident it may have originated in a Chinese virology lab, but he declined to describe the evidence.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Scott Malone, Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)

U.S. still worried about China’s labs amid coronavirus: Pompeo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States remains worried about laboratories in China and the world needs to get to the bottom of how the novel coronavirus began there.

The United States and China have traded insults and accusations during the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 200,000 people around the world and brought the global economy to a crawl.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on April 15 that his government was investigating whether the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged. Those claims have no basis in fact, the head of the lab told Reuters on Tuesday.[nL3N2CG18V]

“I can tell you there were real concerns about the labs inside of China,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News. “I’m still concerned that the Chinese Communist Party is not telling us about all of what’s taking place in all of the labs.”

A Washington Post opinion column this month said the U.S. State Department in 2018 warned in diplomatic cables about safety and management weaknesses at a Wuhan laboratory.

Pompeo said Chinese authorities are continuing to withhold information about the virus and will not allow U.S. experts access.

“In spite of our best efforts to get experts on the ground, they continue to try and hide and obfuscate. That’s wrong, it continues to pose a threat to the world and we all need to get to the bottom of what actually happened here,” he told Fox.

Most scientists now say the new coronavirus originated in wildlife, with bats and pangolins identified as possible host species.

Yuan Zhiming, a director at the Wuhan Institute of Virology also rejected theories that the lab had accidentally released a coronavirus it had harvested from bats for research purposes.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

China lab rejects COVID-19 conspiracy claims, but virus origins still a mystery

By David Stanway

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Claims that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan have no basis in fact, the head of the lab told Reuters, adding that there were still no conclusive answers as to where the disease started.

Conspiracy theorists have claimed SARS-CoV-2, now responsible for more than 200,000 deaths worldwide, was synthesised by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), based in the city where the disease was first identified.

Though the scientific consensus is that the coronavirus evolved naturally, such claims have gained traction. U.S. President Donald Trump said on April 15 that his government was investigating whether it had originated in the Wuhan lab.

Yuan Zhiming, professor at WIV and the director of its National Biosafety Laboratory, said “malicious” claims about the lab had been “pulled out of thin air” and contradicted all available evidence.

“The WIV does not have the intention and the ability to design and construct a new coronavirus,” he said in written responses to questions from Reuters. “Moreover, there is no information within the SARS-CoV-2 genome indicating it was manmade.”

Some conspiracy theories were fuelled by a widely read scientific paper from the Indian Institute of Technology, since withdrawn, claiming that proteins in the coronavirus shared an “uncanny similarity” with those of HIV. However, most scientists now say SARS-CoV-2 originated in wildlife, with bats and pangolins identified as possible host species.

“More than 70% of emerging infectious diseases originated from animals, especially wild animals,” Yuan said.

“In recent years, we have seen increasing risks posed by close contact between humans and wild animals, with global climate change and the continuous expansion of human activities,” he said.

All seven known human coronaviruses have origins in bats, mice or domestic animals, scientists say.

Yuan also rejected theories that the lab had accidentally released a coronavirus it had harvested from bats for research purposes, saying the lab’s biosecurity procedures were strictly enforced.

“High-level biosafety labs have sophisticated protective facilities and strict measures to ensure the safety of laboratory staff and protect the environment from contamination,” he said.

‘STILL NO ANSWERS’

Conspiracy theories are common during epidemics.

Russian scientists claimed the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 originated in a lab, and during the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the late 1970s, some political groups also claimed the virus had been “spliced” together by government scientists.

Though the new coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, conspiracy theories circulating within China have suggested the virus did not originate there.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Twitter in March that the coronavirus might have emerged in the United States, and there has been speculation on Chinese social media that it reached Wuhan via the World Military Games, held there in October.

Yuan did not comment directly on the claims, but said there were “still no answers” about the virus’s origins. He cited a paper by British and German scientists published this month suggesting that the SARS-CoV-2 variant circulating in the United States was a more “primitive” version of the one in China, and might have appeared there first.

“Tracing the virus’s origin is a very challenging scientific question with strong uncertainty,” Yuan said.

China has been accused of underestimating its total number of cases and trying to cover up the origins of the disease, which the government rejects.

Asked whether his institute would cooperate with an international inquiry into the pandemic, Yuan said that he was unaware of “such a mechanism”, but that the laboratory was already inspected regularly.

He added that his institute was committed to transparency and would share all available data about the coronavirus in a timely fashion.

“I hope everyone will put aside their prejudices and biases in order to provide a rational environment for research on tracing the origin of the virus,” he said.

(Reporting by David Stanway. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Trump says ‘strange things’ afoot surrounding coronavirus origins

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that “a lot of strange things are happening” regarding the origins of the novel coronavirus.

The source of the virus is a mystery. The broad scientific consensus is that the novel coronavirus originated in bats.

Fox News reported on Wednesday that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory as part of China’s effort to demonstrate the capability of its efforts in identifying and combating viruses. Trump has said his government is seeking to determine whether the virus emanated from a laboratory in China.

“A lot of strange things are happening but there is a lot of investigation going on. And we’re going to find out,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Trump also cast doubt on China’s death toll, which was revised up on Friday. China said 1,300 people who died of the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan – half the total – were not counted, but dismissed allegations of a cover-up.

The U.S. president said on Friday that many more people must have died in China than in the United States, which is currently the epicenter of the global pandemic and has reported the largest number of deaths in the world linked to the virus.

“We don’t have the most in the world deaths. The most in the world has to be China. It’s a massive country. It’s gone through a tremendous problem with this, a tremendous problem – they must have the most,” Trump told reporters.

China reported that 4,632 people have died of the novel coronavirus within its borders. U.S. coronavirus deaths topped 35,400 on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

Washington and Beijing have publicly sparred over the virus repeatedly. Trump initially praised China’s response to the outbreak, but he and his top aides have also referred to it as the “Chinese virus.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Sandra Maler)

China says nearly 1,300 virus deaths not counted in Wuhan, cites early lapses

By Yawen Chen and Brenda Goh

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Nearly 1,300 people who died of the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, or half the total, were not counted in death tolls because of lapses, state media said on Friday, but Beijing dismissed claims that there had been any kind of cover-up.

The central city where the outbreak emerged late last year added 1,290 more fatalities to the 2,579 previously counted as of Thursday, reflecting incorrect reporting, delays and omissions, according to a local government task force in charge of controlling the coronavirus.

Reflecting the additional deaths in Wuhan, China revised its national death toll later on Friday up to 4,632.

The revision follows widespread speculation that Wuhan’s death toll was significantly higher than reported.

Rumours of more victims were fuelled for weeks by pictures of long queues of family members waiting to collect ashes of cremated relatives and reports of thousands of urns stacked at a funeral home waiting to be filled.

“In the early stage, due to limited hospital capacity and the shortage of medical staff, a few medical institutions failed to connect with local disease control and prevention systems in a timely manner, which resulted in delayed reporting of confirmed cases and some failures to count patients accurately,” state media cited an unidentified Wuhan official as saying.

Suspicion that China has not been transparent about the outbreak has risen in recent days as death tolls mount in many countries, including the United States, with President Donald Trump on Wednesday expressing scepticism about China’s previously declared death figure of about 3,000.

“Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China, and that they have a certain number of cases and a certain number of deaths; does anybody really believe that?” he said.

‘RESPONSIBILITY TO HISTORY’

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday that while there might have been data collection flaws earlier during the outbreak, China has “a responsibility to history, to the people and to the deceased” to ensure numbers are accurate.

“Medical workers at some facilities might have been preoccupied with saving lives and there existed delayed reporting, underreporting or misreporting, but there has never been any cover-up and we do not allow cover-ups,” he said.

Wuhan’s total number of cases was revised up by 325, suggesting that some of the new deaths had been recorded as cases but not confirmed as fatalities, taking the total number of cases in the city of 11 million people to 50,333, or about 60% of mainland China’s total.

The topic “Wuhan revises its death toll” was one of the most read on China’s Weibo microblogging platform, which is heavily moderated.

Many commentators praised the government for admitting its mistakes and correcting them, although some still questioned the numbers and one urged other provinces to reassess their data.

Doctors and government officials in Wuhan have been repeatedly questioned about the accuracy of the death toll by journalists on government-arranged trips.

CHAOTIC EARLY DAYS

Some of those officials acknowledged that people may have died without being counted in the chaotic early days of the outbreak, before testing was widely available.

“There couldn’t have been many because that was a very short period,” Wang Xinghuan, head of one of two field hospitals built for the outbreak, told reporters in Wuhan on April 12. He stressed that he was not speaking for the government.

It is not unusual in epidemics for case and fatality numbers to be revised after authorities carry out retrospective re-testing or reclassify the cause of infection or death.

The Spanish region of Catalonia on Wednesday announced an additional 3,242 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, nearly doubling its previous tally, citing a change in methodology to include data from funerary services on suspected and confirmed COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and private homes.

Before the revised Wuhan numbers were released, China said it had recorded 26 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, down from 46 cases a day earlier, according to the National Health Commission.

It brought the total number of cases in mainland China to 82,367.

Of the new cases, 15 were imported infections, the lowest since March 17. The remaining 11 confirmed cases were locally transmitted, down from 12 a day earlier. The number of new asymptomatic cases increased to 66 from 64 a day earlier.

China does not include patients with no clinical symptoms such as a cough or a fever in its tally of confirmed cases.

No new deaths were reported.

 

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Ryan Woo, Catherine Cadell, Stella Qiu, Lusha Zhang, Se Young Lee, Tom Daly and the Shanghai newsroom, and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Engen Tham and David Stanway; Editing by Tony Munroe, Robert Birsel, Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Trump says U.S. investigating whether virus came from Wuhan lab

By Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his government is trying to determine whether the coronavirus emanated from a lab in Wuhan, China, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Beijing “needs to come clean” on what they know.

The source of the virus remains a mystery. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that U.S. intelligence indicates that the coronavirus likely occurred naturally, as opposed to being created in a laboratory in China, but there is no certainty either way.

Fox News reported on Wednesday that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory not as a bioweapon, but as part of China’s effort to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States.

This report and others have suggested the Wuhan lab where virology experiments take place and lax safety standards there led to someone getting infected and appearing at a nearby “wet” market, where the virus began to spread.

At a White House news conference Trump was asked about the reports of the virus escaping from the Wuhan lab, and he said he was aware of them.

“We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened,” he said.

Asked if he had raised the subject in his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said: “I don’t want to discuss what I talked to him about the laboratory, I just don’t want to discuss, it’s inappropriate right now.”

Trump has sought to stress strong U.S. ties with China during the pandemic as the United States has relied on China for personal protection equipment desperately needed by American medical workers.

As far back as February, the Chinese state-backed Wuhan Institute of Virology dismissed rumors that the virus may have been artificially synthesized at one of its laboratories or perhaps escaped from such a facility.

Pompeo, in a Fox News Channel interview after Trump’s news conference, said “we know this virus originated in Wuhan, China,” and that the Institute of Virology is only a handful of miles away from the wet market.

“We really need the Chinese government to open up” and help explain “exactly how this virus spread,” said Pompeo.

“The Chinese government needs to come clean,” he said.

The broad scientific consensus holds that SARS-CoV-2, the virus’ official name, originated in bats.

Trump and other officials have expressed deep skepticism of China’s officially declared death toll from the virus of around 3,000 people, when the United States has a death toll of more than 20,000 and rising.

He returned to the subject on Wednesday, saying the United States has more cases “because we do more reporting.”

“Do you really believe those numbers in this vast country called China, and that they have a certain number of cases and a certain number of deaths; does anybody really believe that?” he said.

(This story refiles to remove extraneous word pushed in paragraph 9)

(Reporting by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Stephen Coates)