Prime Minister Scott Morrison has distanced Australia from Donald Trump’s allegation that the coronavirus outbreak began in a Wuhan laboratory.
- Donald Trump says he has seen evidence the virus causing COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology
- Scott Morrison has joined US intelligence agencies in saying there is no evidence of that
- Australia is backing an independent investigation into the outbreak
US intelligence agencies say there is no evidence the virus was man-made or engineered in a lab.
But the US President has still speculated that the virus was intentionally released by the Chinese Government and declared he had seen evidence it originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“They could’ve kept it, they could’ve stopped it but they didn’t,” Mr Trump said.
“They stopped planes from going to China, but they didn’t stop them from going to the rest of the world. What was that all about?”
Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra that Australia had seen no “hard evidence” the virus started at the institute.
“What we have before us doesn’t suggest that [the Wuhan lab] is the likely source. There is nothing that we have that indicates that is the likely source,” he said.
But he said Australia was championing an independent investigation into the outbreak so the international community could discover exactly how the outbreak occurred.
“Now, you can’t rule anything out in these environments. We know it started in China, we know it started in Wuhan,” Mr Morrison said.
“The most likely scenario canvassed relates to wildlife wet markets, but that’s a matter that would have to be thoroughly assessed.”
US claims China tried to censor virus news
The United States has also accused China of covering up the early spread of the virus in Wuhan, allowing it to spread more rapidly around the world.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, said it was “hard to know” if China had shared enough information when the virus was first proliferating in Wuhan.
“But we at that time were not of the view that any information was being withheld from us,” he said.
Some Coalition MPs are more sceptical, arguing Chinese officials deliberately tried to censor news of the virus to avoid international embarrassment and internal reprisals.