A health expert has revealed lab leaks "happen all the time" and the theory the coronavirus escaped from a Wuhan lab is not unlikely.
Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner in the US, said accidental leaks were common as concern mounts over the origins of the virus that sparked a worldwide pandemic.
Speaking to Face the Nation on CBS, Ms Gottlieb said the origins of the virus in China needed to be determined to stop similar, deadly pandemics from occurring in the future.
"These kinds of lab leaks happen all the time, actually," he told the program.
"Even here in the United States, we've had mishaps, and in China, the last six known outbreaks of SARS-1 have been out of labs, including the last known outbreak, which was a pretty extensive outbreak that China initially wouldn't disclose that it came out of a lab."
Mr Gottleib added that lab leaks were matters of national security.
"It's important to understand what the possibility is that this came out of a lab so we can focus more international attention on trying to get better inventories around these labs, what they're doing, better security, make sure they're properly built," he told CBS.
"We need to also look at public health through the lens of national security. This was an asymmetric harm to the United States.
"Covid hurt the US a lot more than it hurt many other countries."
British PM 'keeping an open mind' about origins
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview with CBC News in Canada he does not believe the COVID-19 virus escaped from a Chinese lab in Wuhan, but is keeping an eye on new evidence as it emerges saying, "I think we've got to keep an open mind".
"I've got an open mind on this, but I'll be clear with you – so far, the stuff I've seen does not suggest that the ... number one candidate for this is a lab leak," Johnson told CBC News chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
"So the stuff I've seen suggests that at the moment, the number one suspect for the origin of this disease is still a zoonotic disease that occurred as a result of the farming of wild animals in some way.
"I'm reading a lot of interesting stuff at the moment about the possibility that there was some, you know, virus escaping from a lab. I think we've got to keep an open mind," he said.
President Joe Biden ordered aides to find answers to the origin of the virus that causes COVID-19, saying on Wednesday that US intelligence agencies are pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.
Intelligence agencies are considering two likely scenarios but still lack strong confidence in their conclusions and are hotly debating which is more probable, Biden said.
The conclusions were detailed in a report to Biden, who asked his team in March to detail whether the novel coronavirus "emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident", according to the president's written statement.
China condemns lab leak suggestion
It’s thought the coronavirus likely originated from bats and possibly moved to another animal before infecting humans.
The earliest known outbreak strongly suggests it took place at a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Theories the virus was leaked from a lab catapulted into the spotlight early last week when a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) exclusive report claimed three employees from the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalised with a seasonal illness in November 2019, citing a US intelligence report.
"Those claims are groundless. The lab has not been aware of this situation, and I don't even know where such information came from," Yuan Zhiming, director of the institute's Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, told the Global Times.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also hit out at the claims, insisting they are "totally untrue".
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com