China has reportedly appointed its top military biological weapon expert to take over a secretive virus laboratory in Wuhan after the outbreak of a new coronavirus, sparking conspiracy theories that the health crisis could be connected to the army.
Chen Wei, a Major General of the People’s Liberation Army, was flown in to Wuhan by the central government late last month before officially taking the helm of Wuhan Institute of Virology, according to a report.
The 54-year-old’s designation prompted some people to speculate that the epidemic could have been spawned in the little-known lab and that the lab is run by Beijing’s military.
Chen Wei (pictured), a Major General of the People’s Liberation Army, was flown in to Wuhan late last month after the coronavirus broke out there, according to Chinese state-run media
Chen (pictured with her team) is also a leading specialist in genetic engineering vaccines in China. She developed a medical spray during the SARS outbreak in 2003, preventing around 14,000 medical workers from contracting the virus, said another state-media report
Wuhan Institute of Virology (pictured) has been the centre of conspiracy theories after the coronavirus epidemic started. One theory claims that the virus was a biological weapon engineered by China and was leaked from the lab by accident – to which China denied
Chen and her team were already developing a quicker way to screen the COVID-19 coronavirus from a tent in the epicenter on January 30, according to an official report from China.
Chen, also a leading specialist in genetic engineering vaccines in China, developed a medical spray during the SARS outbreak in 2003. The product prevented around 14,000 medical workers from contracting the virus, said another state-media report.
She is also known in the country as the ‘terminator of Ebola’ for leading a team to create a vaccine against the fatal virus.
Speaking of fighting the novel coronavirus, Chen said: ‘The epidemic is like a military situation. The epicentre equals to the battlefield.’
Chen and her team were already developing a quicker way to screen the COVID-19 coronavirus from a tent in the epicenter on January 30, according to an official report from China. She is pictured being interviewed by to a reporter from CCTV outside the mobile laboratory in Wuhan
China’s central government has sent at least 2,600 military doctors to Wuhan in a bid to curb the epidemic. Members of a military medical team are pictured heading for Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, where most of the coronavirus patients are being looked after, on January 26
Several of Wuhan’s major hospitals as well as two newly built coronavirus hospitals are now being managed by the People’s Liberation Army. A military medical worker is pictured taking over the work from a medical worker at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital on January 26
Although China’s official media had little information on where Chen was working from in Wuhan, Radio France Internationale last Saturday claimed that she had already taken the leadership of Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The lab opened in November, 2018, and is classified as P4, the highest level in bio-safety.
The report cited a post on Chinese forum Douban as its source and claimed that the move revealed the possible relation between the lab and the army.
‘This kind of connection shows that the previous [speculation] suggesting that the Chinese troops were developing biological weapons in Wuhan P4 did not come out of thin air,’ it said.
The article was referring to an earlier theory, which claims that the COVID-19 virus was a biological weapon engineered by China and was leaked from the lab by accident.
The new coronavirus has killed at least 1,383 people and infected more than 64,461 globally
The claims came from a report by The Washington Times, citing a former Israeli military intelligence officer named Dany Shoham. It suggested that the coronavirus originated in the lab which was engaging in a biowarfare programme.
Chinese authorities have denied the allegations.
Shi Zhengli, a director at Wuhan Institute of Virology, said earlier this month: ‘The 2019 novel coronavirus is nature’s punishment for humans’ uncivilised life habits. I, Shi Zhengli, use my life to guarantee, [the virus] has no relation with the lab.’
Shi urged the Chinese authorities to launch an official investigation into the matter.
She told Chinese news outlet Caixin: ‘Conspiracy theorists don’t believe in science. I hope our country’s professional departments can come to investigate and prove our innocence.’
Xu Bin (second from the right) from Beijing Chaoyang An’yuan Hospital affiliated to Capital Medical University, talks to journalists while a young family is discharged from the hospital in China’s capital after all members recovered from the COVID-19 coronavirus on Friday
Street cleaners wait in line to receive free face masks in Hong Kong, China, on Friday
A couple wearing protective masks walks on the street on Valentine’s Day in Guangzhou, China
A separate conspiracy theory alleges that the COVID-19 virus was created by the United States which released it on purpose.
The theory proposes that the virus was used by Washington as part of a multi-pronged war against China, said a columnist at South China Morning Post, citing Hong Kong-based YouTube influencer Jonathan Ho Chi-kwong.
The author criticised the conspiracy theory, saying that it had been refuted by experts.
‘Experts have pointed out that as a bioweapon, the new virus is pretty useless. It appears to kill just 2 per cent of victims and each patient spreads it to an average of only 2.2 people,’ said the op-ed.
Medical workers check on the conditions of patients in Wuhan’s Jinyintan Hospital on Thursday. The hospital has been designated to treat critical sufferers of the COVID-19 virus
Medical staff work in the negative-pressure isolation ward in Jinyintan Hospital on Thursday
China has reported another sharp rise in the number of people infected with the killer coronavirus, with the death toll now nearing 1,400.
The National Health Commission said 121 more deaths were recorded yesterday, as well as 5,090 new confirmed cases.
The number of reported cases has been rising more quickly after the hardest-hit province changed its method of counting them.
There are now almost 64,000 confirmed cases in mainland China, of which 1,380 have died, according to the national body.
Hubei province is now including cases based on a physician’s diagnosis and before they have been confirmed by lab tests.
The acceleration in the number of cases does not necessarily represent a sudden surge in new infections of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Globally, the COVID-19 virus has so far killed at least 1,383 people and infected more than 64,460.