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Kamis, 30 April 2020

Coronavirus: Donald Trump speculates China caused pandemic after ‘mistake’ or intentional act - The Australian

US President Donald Trump says he’s seen evidence the Wuhan Institute of Virology is the origin of COVID-19, not a wet market in the Chinese city, and the World Health Organisation should be “ashamed” for being a “public relations agency for China”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has supported Prime Minister Scott Morrison's calls for an international inquiry into the origins of the pandemic, with the Coalition refusing to back down regardless of economic backlash from China. “It started in China, and that is not a statement of accusation or criticism, it’s just a statement of fact,” Mr Morrison said. Mr Morrison’s stance was supported by his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, who condemned the business sector for “taking China’s side” publicly in the diplomatic feud between Australia and China. “All it does is encourage China to say yeah, we just stand up there and we threaten trade consequences,” Mr Turnbull said. Image: AP

US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Friday.
US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Friday.

The US intelligence community publicly confirmed it is trying to determine whether the coronavirus may have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic began.

In an unusual public statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, said that US intelligence agencies concur with a wide scientific consensus that “the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified”.

But ODNI, which coordinates the work of 17 US spy agencies, said US intelligence “will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

Read Next

US intelligence agencies rarely discuss their work or conclusions publicly, and the ODNI statement marked a break from that pattern.

The rare statement came as President Donald Trump speculated that China could have unleashed the coronavirus on the world due to some kind of horrible “mistake” or even intentionally.

Mr Trump claimed to have seen evidence to support the theory that the origin was an infectious disease lab in Wuhan. He said the US now “is finding how it came out.”

“It’s a terrible thing that happened,” the president said. “Whether they made a mistake or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one, or did somebody do something on purpose.”

The Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan.

Pressed by reporters at the White House for details, Mr Trump replied: “I cannot tell you that.”

Earlier, before Mr Trump’s comments, the Chinese government said that any claims that the coronavirus was released from a laboratory are “unfounded and purely fabricated out of nothing.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang cited the institute’s director, Yuan Zhiming, as saying the lab strictly implements biosecurity procedures that would prevent the release of any pathogen.

“I would like to point out again that the origin of the virus is a complex scientific issue, and it should be studied by scientists and professionals,” Geng said.

He also criticised those in the US who say China should be held accountable for the global pandemic, saying they should spend their time on “better controlling the epidemic situation at home.”

The Wall Street Journal and other news organisations previously have reported that American intelligence agencies are assessing whether the virus might have escaped from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

China’s role in the spread of the virus has figured prominently into debates within the US, where more than one million have been infected with more than 61,000 killed. While experts in the US and elsewhere have faulted China for not sharing information about the outbreak more quickly, President Trump and his allies have often attacked Beijing when questioned about the administration’s own coronavirus response.

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, for months has suggested a lab accident could have led to the pandemic. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly has called attention to possible involvement of the laboratory in Wuhan and insisted that China allow outside experts into the lab.

Donald Trump declined to say whether he holds Chinese President Xi Jinping responsible for what he feels is misinformation from China when the virus emerged from Wuhan, China, and quickly spread around the world.

No concrete evidence has emerged to support the lab theory, and the Chinese government has repeatedly denied it. Senior US officials have previously acknowledged efforts to look into whether the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan lab, where scientists study bat coronaviruses as part of a global effort to understand viruses that could pose danger to humans.

In mid-April, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said US intelligence officials had taken a hard look at evidence regarding possible involvement by Chinese laboratories. “And I would just say at this point it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural. But we don’t know for certain,” he said.

Susan Miller, an ODNI spokeswoman, disputed that the investigation was prompted by a request by the White House or other parts of the administration or that it had received pressure to arrive at a specific conclusion. “We take these allegations of political pressure very seriously and have seen no such actions to date. We have seen no evidence of this,” Ms Miller said.

Mr Trump — asked Thursday whether he agrees with the intelligence community’s conclusion that the virus was not man made or genetically modified — said he hadn’t seen the report on the matter. It was unclear what report Mr Trump was referring to.

Many scientific experts who have studied the virus say it is highly unlikely that it escaped from the Wuhan lab, and that the pandemic almost certainly began as a result of humans being infected from animals. Some biosafety experts, however, have questioned the Wuhan lab’s safety procedures and have said it is possible that scientists there were studying the virus and it escaped.

Workers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Picture: US EPA
Workers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Picture: US EPA

Experts in virus transmission have said that the novel coronavirus could have leapt from bats to humans directly or through an intermediate mammal in a variety of ways, including contact during hunting or transportation of animals. The genetic sequence of the virus bears strong resemblance to other bat coronaviruses that have been previously detected, and experts have said there don’t appear to be signs of humans engineering modifications to the virus.

Former US intelligence officials have said that definitively concluding the precise origins of the virus outbreak will be difficult, if not impossible, intelligence tradecraft alone.

To do so would require finding “a smoking gun,” said Glenn Gerstell, former general counsel of the National Security Agency. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we never end up with the actual definitive answer,” he said during an online event sponsored by George Mason University’s Hayden Centre.

The Wall Street Journal, agencies

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Reader comments on this site are moderated before publication to promote lively, but civil and respectful debate. We encourage your comments but submitting one does not guarantee publication. You can read our comment guidelines here. If you believe a comment has been rejected in error, email comments@theaustralian.com.au and we'll investigate. Please ensure you include the email address you use to log in so we can locate your comment.

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2020-05-01 04:49:00Z
52780755167013

Coronavirus: Donald Trump speculates China caused pandemic after ‘mistake’ or intentional act - The Australian

US President Donald Trump says he’s seen evidence the Wuhan Institute of Virology is the origin of COVID-19, not a wet market in the Chinese city, and the World Health Organisation should be “ashamed” for being a “public relations agency for China”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has supported Prime Minister Scott Morrison's calls for an international inquiry into the origins of the pandemic, with the Coalition refusing to back down regardless of economic backlash from China. “It started in China, and that is not a statement of accusation or criticism, it’s just a statement of fact,” Mr Morrison said. Mr Morrison’s stance was supported by his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, who condemned the business sector for “taking China’s side” publicly in the diplomatic feud between Australia and China. “All it does is encourage China to say yeah, we just stand up there and we threaten trade consequences,” Mr Turnbull said. Image: AP

US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Friday.
US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Friday.

The US intelligence community publicly confirmed it is trying to determine whether the coronavirus may have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic began.

In an unusual public statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, said that US intelligence agencies concur with a wide scientific consensus that “the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified”.

But ODNI, which coordinates the work of 17 US spy agencies, said US intelligence “will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

Read Next

US intelligence agencies rarely discuss their work or conclusions publicly, and the ODNI statement marked a break from that pattern.

The rare statement came as President Donald Trump speculated that China could have unleashed the coronavirus on the world due to some kind of horrible “mistake” or even intentionally.

Mr Trump claimed to have seen evidence to support the theory that the origin was an infectious disease lab in Wuhan. He said the US now “is finding how it came out.”

“It’s a terrible thing that happened,” the president said. “Whether they made a mistake or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one, or did somebody do something on purpose.”

The Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan.

Pressed by reporters at the White House for details, Mr Trump replied: “I cannot tell you that.”

Earlier, before Mr Trump’s comments, the Chinese government said that any claims that the coronavirus was released from a laboratory are “unfounded and purely fabricated out of nothing.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang cited the institute’s director, Yuan Zhiming, as saying the lab strictly implements biosecurity procedures that would prevent the release of any pathogen.

“I would like to point out again that the origin of the virus is a complex scientific issue, and it should be studied by scientists and professionals,” Geng said.

He also criticised those in the US who say China should be held accountable for the global pandemic, saying they should spend their time on “better controlling the epidemic situation at home.”

The Wall Street Journal and other news organisations previously have reported that American intelligence agencies are assessing whether the virus might have escaped from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

China’s role in the spread of the virus has figured prominently into debates within the US, where more than one million have been infected with more than 61,000 killed. While experts in the US and elsewhere have faulted China for not sharing information about the outbreak more quickly, President Trump and his allies have often attacked Beijing when questioned about the administration’s own coronavirus response.

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, for months has suggested a lab accident could have led to the pandemic. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly has called attention to possible involvement of the laboratory in Wuhan and insisted that China allow outside experts into the lab.

Donald Trump declined to say whether he holds Chinese President Xi Jinping responsible for what he feels is misinformation from China when the virus emerged from Wuhan, China, and quickly spread around the world.

No concrete evidence has emerged to support the lab theory, and the Chinese government has repeatedly denied it. Senior US officials have previously acknowledged efforts to look into whether the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan lab, where scientists study bat coronaviruses as part of a global effort to understand viruses that could pose danger to humans.

In mid-April, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said US intelligence officials had taken a hard look at evidence regarding possible involvement by Chinese laboratories. “And I would just say at this point it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural. But we don’t know for certain,” he said.

Susan Miller, an ODNI spokeswoman, disputed that the investigation was prompted by a request by the White House or other parts of the administration or that it had received pressure to arrive at a specific conclusion. “We take these allegations of political pressure very seriously and have seen no such actions to date. We have seen no evidence of this,” Ms Miller said.

Mr Trump — asked Thursday whether he agrees with the intelligence community’s conclusion that the virus was not man made or genetically modified — said he hadn’t seen the report on the matter. It was unclear what report Mr Trump was referring to.

Many scientific experts who have studied the virus say it is highly unlikely that it escaped from the Wuhan lab, and that the pandemic almost certainly began as a result of humans being infected from animals. Some biosafety experts, however, have questioned the Wuhan lab’s safety procedures and have said it is possible that scientists there were studying the virus and it escaped.

Workers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Picture: US EPA
Workers inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Picture: US EPA

Experts in virus transmission have said that the novel coronavirus could have leapt from bats to humans directly or through an intermediate mammal in a variety of ways, including contact during hunting or transportation of animals. The genetic sequence of the virus bears strong resemblance to other bat coronaviruses that have been previously detected, and experts have said there don’t appear to be signs of humans engineering modifications to the virus.

Former US intelligence officials have said that definitively concluding the precise origins of the virus outbreak will be difficult, if not impossible, intelligence tradecraft alone.

To do so would require finding “a smoking gun,” said Glenn Gerstell, former general counsel of the National Security Agency. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we never end up with the actual definitive answer,” he said during an online event sponsored by George Mason University’s Hayden Centre.

The Wall Street Journal, agencies

More stories on this topic

Topics

Read Next

Comments

Reader comments on this site are moderated before publication to promote lively, but civil and respectful debate. We encourage your comments but submitting one does not guarantee publication. You can read our comment guidelines here. If you believe a comment has been rejected in error, email comments@theaustralian.com.au and we'll investigate. Please ensure you include the email address you use to log in so we can locate your comment.

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2020-05-01 03:12:00Z
52780758171181

Coronavirus: Donald Trump flirts with theory that China released virus ‘on purpose’ - NEWS.com.au

Donald Trump has publicly flirted with the unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus was released from a Chinese laboratory “on purpose”, as tensions between the two nations continue to rise.

Scientists have said the virus is most likely of natural origin, and spread from an infected animal to a human.

But The New York Times reports senior Trump administration officials, foremost among them Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have been pushing intelligence agencies to find evidence supporting the theory – again, so far unsubstantiated – that the virus originated in a Wuhan research lab.

RELATED: Mysterious lab next to coronavirus epicentre

Speaking at the White House today, the President claimed to have seen evidence backing up the theory.

“We have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people and others. We’re going to put it all together. I think we will have a very good answer. And China might even tell us,” Mr Trump told reporters.

Asked to explain what evidence he had seen, he demurred.

“I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that,” he said.

Mr Trump also floated the even more dramatic theory that China released the virus on purpose.

“It’s a terrible thing that happened,” the President said.

“Whether they made a mistake, or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one, or did somebody do something on purpose?” he mused.

“Certainly it could have been stopped. They either couldn’t do it from a competence standpoint, or they let it spread.”

In a statement, America’s Director of National Intelligence confirmed the lab accident scenario was still being considered as a possibility, but ruled out the idea that the virus was a man-made bioweapon.

“The intelligence community concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” he said.

“The intelligence community will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

China, for its part, has said the lab theory is “purely fabricated out of nothing”.

RELATED: Mysterious lab next to coronavirus epicentre

Today’s news comes amid reports the US is drawing up plans to punish China for its handling of the pandemic.

In an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office yesterday, Mr Trump said he was considering a range of options for imposing consequences on China, which has been accused of trying to cover up the outbreak when it first emerged in Wuhan.

That, he said, robbed other countries of precious time they could have used to prepare for the virus.

Last month, US intelligence agencies concluded China was still providing the rest of the world with an inaccurate number of cases and deaths.

“I can do a lot,” Mr Trump told Reuters.

“There are many things I can do. We’re looking for what happened.”

Mr Trump repeatedly praised Chinese President Xi Jinping during the early months of the pandemic, thanking Mr Xi for his “transparency” and saying he had handled the crisis “really well”.

RELATED: WHO says world should have listened to warnings

But that has changed in recent weeks. Facing sustained criticism of his own coronavirus response, which critics say was far too slow, Mr Trump has sought to deflect the blame onto China.

“There are a lot of ways you can hold them accountable,” he said at a coronavirus briefing earlier this week.

“We’re doing very serious investigations, as you probably know. And we are not happy with China. We are not happy with that whole situation. Because we believe it could have been stopped at the source.

“It could have been stopped quickly, and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world.”

During the interview with Reuters, he suggested China was trying to damage his chances of winning re-election.

“China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” Mr Trump said.

In its own statement today, China told the United States to focus on its own problems.

“China, like the US, is a victim of the virus,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“At this particular time they should focus on domestic epidemic control and international anti-epidemic co-operation, rather than attack, smear or shift blame onto China.”

The Chinese government’s state-run media mouthpieces have been even less diplomatic. In recent days, they have aired and published particularly scathing assessments of Mr Pompeo, who has been the most persistent official voice promoting the lab theory.

On Monday, The People’s Daily labelled Mr Pompeo “poisonous”, saying he had shown his “most twisted and ferocious face” by “fabricating rumours” against China.

One TV news anchor, Hai Xia called him an “enemy of humankind”. Another, Ouyang Xiadan, accused him of using “lying, cheating, stealing tricks”.

The People’s Daily targeted Mr Pompeo twice more throughout the week, branding him a “bully”.

And the Xinhua news agency rounded things off with this animation.

Mr Trump is under immense political pressure back home, where the virus continues to kill about 2000 Americans per day. Yesterday the death toll passed 60,000.

Less than a fortnight ago, Mr Trump had predicted the total number of deaths in the US could top out at that number.

RELATED: Trump focuses on economy as US death toll passes 60,000

“It looks like we’ll be at about a 60,000 mark, which is 40,000 less than the lowest number thought of,” Mr Trump said on April 19.

The “lowest number” he was referring to came from the previous White House forecast of 100,000-240,000 deaths.

“The low number was supposed to be 100,000 people. We could end up at 50 to 60,” he added at the next day’s briefing.

The President was seizing on modelling published by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which projected as few as 60,000 deaths in the first wave of the pandemic. It expected that wave to last until August.

Instead, the US has reached that mark before the end of April – three months ahead of schedule.

Mr Trump’s focus has turned towards starting to reopen America’s economy.

Today marked the end of the federal government’s guidelines for “slowing the spread” of the virus, which included social distancing rules. They have been replaced by new guidelines, designed to tell state governors how to reopen their economies “safely and responsibly”.

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2020-05-01 02:26:15Z
52780758171181

Marise Payne, Julie Bishop urge calm in tense relations with China over coronavirus origins - SBS News

Global co-operation not economic coercion is the appropriate way to resolve the dispute over an international investigation into COVID-19, says Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Speaking on the ABC's AM program on Friday morning, Ms Payne said she rejected the approach of ambassador Cheng Jingye, who floated a Chinese consumer boycott of Australian products in retaliation to tension over the probe, targeting the crucial agriculture, education and tourism markets.

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said Chinese diplomats had been "downright despicable and menacing" since Australia started pressing the case for an investigation.

Ms Payne said economic coercion was not the right response.

"We reject any suggestion that economic coercion would be an appropriate response to calls for an independent and transparent review, when what we actually need right now is global cooperation and that is endorsed by many around the world," Ms Payne said.

Australian businessman Andrew Twiggy Forrest.

Australian businessman Andrew Twiggy Forrest.

AAP

The comments come as conservative MPs blasted mining magnate Twiggy Forrest for inviting a Chinese diplomat to a ministerial press conference unannounced on Wednesday.

Mr Forrest said his invitation to to address the media had been a "gesture of appreciation and friendship betweenour two great countries".

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the media conference had overshadowed the good work of the Forrests.

Ms Payne said she didn't feel blindsided after Mr Forrest invited the Chinese diplomat unannounced.

"The proper and courteous thing to do was to accept the gentlemen's presence as a representative of the Government, invited by Mr Forrest," Ms Payne said.

She added there was "definitely a need for an independent and transparent review" of the coronavirus and responses to it, but said timing of the review was crucial.

"Many countries in the world are literally going into the challenges of the first wave for them of dealing with coronavirus. So we absolutely understand, and have said from the beginning, that the timing of this is important, but what we do need to do is to put that stake in the ground to say we need to have an independent, transparent review and that's the process that we’re in at the moment."

'More calm'

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop also called for "quiet diplomacy" to resolve the dispute over the international investigation on Friday morning.

"I think we should scale down the rhetoric, more calm and quiet diplomacy, so that we can understand more about this virus, how it got into human populations and whether decisions could have been taken that would have prevented its spread," she told the ABC.

However, she said China had a responsibility to support an independent global investigation if it did not intend to carry out its own inquiry to help the rest of the world learn what happened.

"China should fulfill its obligations as a member of the UN Security Council"

Australian National University's Andrew Carr warned attempts by Australia to rebuke China could distract from calls for an inquiry into COVID-19's origins.

Dr Carr told AAP the current spat was minor in the scheme of things but Australia shouldn't let it slide.

A serious inquiry into coronavirus' orgins could help counter conspiracy theories and racist attacks.

But Australia was well positioned to manage how diplomats inside Australia are supposed to act, he said.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store. SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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2020-05-01 01:59:55Z
52780756575555

Marise Payne, Julie Bishop urge calm in tense relations with China over coronavirus origins - SBS News

Global co-operation not economic coercion is the appropriate way to resolve the dispute over an international investigation into COVID-19, says Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Speaking on the ABC's AM program on Friday morning, Ms Payne said she rejected the approach of ambassador Cheng Jingye, who floated a Chinese consumer boycott of Australian products in retaliation to tension over the probe, targeting the crucial agriculture, education and tourism markets.

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said Chinese diplomats had been "downright despicable and menacing" since Australia started pressing the case for an investigation.

Ms Payne said economic coercion was not the right response.

"We reject any suggestion that economic coercion would be an appropriate response to calls for an independent and transparent review, when what we actually need right now is global cooperation and that is endorsed by many around the world," Ms Payne said.

Australian businessman Andrew Twiggy Forrest.

Australian businessman Andrew Twiggy Forrest.

AAP

The comments come as conservative MPs blasted mining magnate Twiggy Forrest for inviting a Chinese diplomat to a ministerial press conference unannounced on Wednesday.

Mr Forrest said his invitation to to address the media had been a "gesture of appreciation and friendship betweenour two great countries".

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the media conference had overshadowed the good work of the Forrests.

Ms Payne said she didn't feel blindsided after Mr Forrest invited the Chinese diplomat unannounced.

"The proper and courteous thing to do was to accept the gentlemen's presence as a representative of the Government, invited by Mr Forrest," Ms Payne said.

She added there was "definitely a need for an independent and transparent review" of the coronavirus and responses to it, but said timing of the review was crucial.

"Many countries in the world are literally going into the challenges of the first wave for them of dealing with coronavirus. So we absolutely understand, and have said from the beginning, that the timing of this is important, but what we do need to do is to put that stake in the ground to say we need to have an independent, transparent review and that's the process that we’re in at the moment."

'More calm'

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop also called for "quiet diplomacy" to resolve the dispute over the international investigation on Friday morning.

"I think we should scale down the rhetoric, more calm and quiet diplomacy, so that we can understand more about this virus, how it got into human populations and whether decisions could have been taken that would have prevented its spread," she told the ABC.

However, she said China had a responsibility to support an independent global investigation if it did not intend to carry out its own inquiry to help the rest of the world learn what happened.

"China should fulfill its obligations as a member of the UN Security Council"

Australian National University's Andrew Carr warned attempts by Australia to rebuke China could distract from calls for an inquiry into COVID-19's origins.

Dr Carr told AAP the current spat was minor in the scheme of things but Australia shouldn't let it slide.

A serious inquiry into coronavirus' orgins could help counter conspiracy theories and racist attacks.

But Australia was well positioned to manage how diplomats inside Australia are supposed to act, he said.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store. SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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2020-05-01 01:44:27Z
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Donald Trump points to Wuhan laboratory as origin of coronavirus pandemic, questions if China 'let it out' - ABC News

US President Donald Trump says he is confident COVID-19 originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, ratcheting up tensions with China over the origins of the deadly disease.

During a press conference at the White House, Mr Trump said he had a high degree of confidence that the virus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but was "not allowed" to say what his evidence was.

He said there had been "three or four different concepts as to" the virus's origins and criticised China's response, saying they were either too incompetent to stop it getting out "or they let it out".

"They are a very brilliant nation, scientifically and otherwise, [but] it got loose, let's say," he said.

"They could've kept it, they could've stopped it but they didn't. 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?"

The Chinese state-backed laboratory in Wuhan has dismissed the allegations, and other US officials have downplayed their likelihood.

Mr Trump implied a number of times during the briefing that it could have been intentionally allowed to spread, despite the World Health Organization and most experts saying the virus arose naturally in bats and jumped to humans at a market selling wildlife in Wuhan.

"I think China seems to be trying to be somewhat transparent with us," he said.

The President has shown increasing frustration with China in recent weeks over the pandemic, which has killed more than 60,000 people in the United States alone, sparked an economic contraction and threatened his chances of re-election in November.

He said he hoped to have more solid answers "in the not-too-distant future".

The Chinese Government has said any claims coronavirus was released from a laboratory are "unfounded and purely fabricated out of nothing".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang cited the institute's director, Yuan Zhiming, as saying the lab strictly implements biosecurity procedures that would prevent the release of any pathogen.

"I would like to point out again that the origin of the virus is a complex scientific issue, and it should be studied by scientists and professionals," he said.

Mr Geng also criticised US politicians who have suggested China should be held accountable for the global pandemic, saying they should spend their time on "better controlling the epidemic situation at home".

Mr Trump's comments came hours after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a statement saying the intelligence community "concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified".

Mr Trump told reporters he had not seen that statement and would like to know "who specifically made the statement".

"The [intelligence community] will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan," the ODNI said.

US officials said the American Embassy in Beijing flagged concerns about potential safety issues at the lab in Wuhan in 2018, but they had not found any evidence the virus originated there nearly two years later.

ABC/Reuters

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2020-05-01 00:02:58Z
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Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin tells President Vladimir Putin he has coronavirus - ABC News

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says he has tested positive for coronavirus and has told President Vladimir Putin he is temporarily stepping down to recover.

Mr Mishustin, 54, who has been one of the main coordinators of Russia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is the first high-ranking Russian official to publicly say they have the virus.

The Prime Minister's case is one of more than 106,000 in Russia, which has recorded just over 1,000 deaths.

"I have found out that the coronavirus tests I had done returned with a positive result," said Mr Mishustin in a televised meeting with Mr Putin.

Two women in surgical masks laughing together in front of St Basil's Cathedral in Russia
Russia this week overtook China and Iran in the number of confirmed cases arising from the global pandemic.(Reuters: Shamil Zhumatov)

Mr Mishustin, who was appointed by Mr Putin in January, suggested that First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov serve as acting prime minister in his absence.

Mr Putin sighed when he heard the news, wished Mr Mishustin a speedy recovery and said he agreed with the proposed replacement.

"What is happening to you can happen to anyone," Mr Putin replied matter-of-factly.

It was not immediately clear when Mr Putin last met with Mr Mishustin in person.

Russian cases surpass China, Iran

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin gestures with his hands while he its at a table with a Russian flag in the background
The Prime Minister's case is one of more than 106,000 in Russia.(Reuters: Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov)

Mr Mishustin said he would remain in contact with members of the government and Mr Putin by phone and video conference despite his condition.

He will spend his self-isolation period at a hospital under the supervision of doctors, his spokesman Boris Belyakov said, without disclosing the exact location where the prime minister would be treated.

Mr Belyakov added that all those who had been in contact with Mr Mishustin would go into self-isolation and be tested for the virus.

Russia's nationwide tally of confirmed coronavirus cases surged past the 100,000 mark on Thursday after a record daily rise in new infections.

Russia this week overtook China and Iran in the number of confirmed cases arising from the global pandemic.

Russia has so far reported 1,073 coronavirus-related deaths, a figure far lower than many of the hardest-hit countries.

Mr Putin has warned the peak of the outbreak was yet to come, and authorities have said there could be a new spike in cases if the population flouts lockdown measures during public holidays in early May.

People in white suits and gas masks use brooms and spray detergent on a street in Moscow.
Russia has so far reported 1,073 coronavirus-related deaths.(AP: Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency)

The world's largest country by territory, Russia has been on lockdown since Mr Putin announced the closure of most public spaces in late March to limit the scope for the virus to spread.

Mr Putin and the cabinet have been holding remote meetings to avoid contact.

ABC/wires

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Privacy concerns over new technology to help track the spread of coronavirus

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2020-05-01 00:02:40Z
CAIiEC0n04lDMikV-tv8H10Cj0wqFggEKg4IACoGCAow3vI9MPeaCDDciw4

Boris Johnson declares UK 'past the peak' as another 647 die from coronavirus - ABC News

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is "past the peak" of its coronavirus outbreak and has promised a comprehensive plan for restarting the country's flagging economy.

Mr Johnson, fronting his first daily press conference in more than a month after recovering from COVID-19, urged Britons to hold firm during the strict lockdown and not "risk a second spike" of the virus.

"I can confirm today that for the first time, we are past the peak of this disease," Mr Johnson said from Downing Street.

It comes as the UK recorded another 647 coronavirus deaths, taking the official total to 26,711 people — a figure only topped around the world by Italy and the United States.

The Prime Minister, who welcomed a baby boy with fiancée Carrie Symonds yesterday, rejected claims the UK's lockdown — put in place on March 23 — came too late and said he felt the Government did "the right thing at the right time".

"It was completely right to make our period of lockdown coincide as far as we possibly could with the peak of the epidemic," he said.

But he also moved to limit speculation that the restrictions would be lifted anytime soon.

"We have come through the peak — or rather we've come under what could have been a vast peak, as though we've been going through some huge alpine tunnel and we can now see the sunlight and pasture ahead of us," Mr Johnson said.

The promised "road map" to lifting the lockdown will be unveiled next week, Mr Johnson said.

"The dates and times of each individual measure will be very much driven by where we are in the epidemic, what the data is really saying and we are getting in a lot more data every day now and in the course of the next few days."

Testing times

Testing for coronavirus remains an issue in the UK, with the Government having set itself a target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Mr Johnson said 81,611 tests were conducted on Wednesday, which continued the steep increase over the past week, but the PM conceded the UK still had a way to go.

"You're going to be hearing a lot more in the course of the next couple of days, as you can imagine, about where we are with testing," Mr Johnson said.

"There is clearly a massive way to go."

Earlier on Thursday NHS Providers, a body representing hospital, community and ambulance services in the National Health Service, said the 100,000 target was a "red herring" that could be distracting attention from ensuring those who needed a test got one.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said 120,000 tests would be needed daily for NHS workers alone once lockdown measures were lifted.

"What we need to know is what are we going to do in terms of the testing regime over the next six, eight, 10, 12 weeks as we come out of lockdown," he told the BBC.

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2020-04-30 23:01:15Z
52780757781049

Boris Johnson declares UK 'past the peak' as another 647 die from coronavirus - ABC News

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is "past the peak" of its coronavirus outbreak and has promised a comprehensive plan for restarting the country's flagging economy.

Mr Johnson, fronting his first daily press conference in more than a month after recovering from COVID-19, urged Britons to hold firm during the strict lockdown and not "risk a second spike" of the virus.

"I can confirm today that for the first time, we are past the peak of this disease," Mr Johnson said from Downing Street.

It comes as the UK recorded another 647 coronavirus deaths, taking the official total to 26,711 people — a figure only topped around the world by Italy and the United States.

The Prime Minister, who welcomed a baby boy with fiancée Carrie Symonds yesterday, rejected claims the UK's lockdown — put in place on March 23 — came too late and said he felt the Government did "the right thing at the right time".

"It was completely right to make our period of lockdown coincide as far as we possibly could with the peak of the epidemic," he said.

But he also moved to limit speculation that the restrictions would be lifted anytime soon.

"We have come through the peak — or rather we've come under what could have been a vast peak, as though we've been going through some huge alpine tunnel and we can now see the sunlight and pasture ahead of us," Mr Johnson said.

The promised "road map" to lifting the lockdown will be unveiled next week, Mr Johnson said.

"The dates and times of each individual measure will be very much driven by where we are in the epidemic, what the data is really saying and we are getting in a lot more data every day now and in the course of the next few days."

Testing times

Testing for coronavirus remains an issue in the UK, with the Government having set itself a target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Mr Johnson said 81,611 tests were conducted on Wednesday, which continued the steep increase over the past week, but the PM conceded the UK still had a way to go.

"You're going to be hearing a lot more in the course of the next couple of days, as you can imagine, about where we are with testing," Mr Johnson said.

"There is clearly a massive way to go."

Earlier on Thursday NHS Providers, a body representing hospital, community and ambulance services in the National Health Service, said the 100,000 target was a "red herring" that could be distracting attention from ensuring those who needed a test got one.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said 120,000 tests would be needed daily for NHS workers alone once lockdown measures were lifted.

"What we need to know is what are we going to do in terms of the testing regime over the next six, eight, 10, 12 weeks as we come out of lockdown," he told the BBC.

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2020-04-30 22:42:41Z
52780757781049

Boris Johnson declares UK 'past the peak' as another 647 die from coronavirus - ABC News

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is "past the peak" of its coronavirus outbreak and has promised a comprehensive plan for restarting the country's flagging economy.

Mr Johnson, fronting his first daily press conference in more than a month after recovering from COVID-19, urged Britons to hold firm during the strict lockdown and not "risk a second spike" of the virus.

"I can confirm today that for the first time, we are past the peak of this disease," Mr Johnson said from Downing Street.

It comes as the UK recorded another 647 coronavirus deaths, taking the official total to 26,711 people — a figure only topped around the world by Italy and the United States.

The Prime Minister, who welcomed a baby boy with fiancée Carrie Symonds yesterday, rejected claims the UK's lockdown — put in place on March 23 — came too late and said he felt the Government did "the right thing at the right time".

"It was completely right to make our period of lockdown coincide as far as we possibly could with the peak of the epidemic," he said.

But he also moved to limit speculation that the restrictions would be lifted anytime soon.

"We have come through the peak — or rather we've come under what could have been a vast peak, as though we've been going through some huge alpine tunnel and we can now see the sunlight and pasture ahead of us," Mr Johnson said.

The promised "road map" to lifting the lockdown will be unveiled next week, Mr Johnson said.

"The dates and times of each individual measure will be very much driven by where we are in the epidemic, what the data is really saying and we are getting in a lot more data every day now and in the course of the next few days."

Testing times

Testing for coronavirus remains an issue in the UK, with the Government having set itself a target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Mr Johnson said 81,611 tests were conducted on Wednesday, which continued the steep increase over the past week, but the PM conceded the UK still had a way to go.

"You're going to be hearing a lot more in the course of the next couple of days, as you can imagine, about where we are with testing," Mr Johnson said.

"There is clearly a massive way to go."

Earlier on Thursday NHS Providers, a body representing hospital, community and ambulance services in the National Health Service, said the 100,000 target was a "red herring" that could be distracting attention from ensuring those who needed a test got one.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said 120,000 tests would be needed daily for NHS workers alone once lockdown measures were lifted.

"What we need to know is what are we going to do in terms of the testing regime over the next six, eight, 10, 12 weeks as we come out of lockdown," he told the BBC.

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What are the long-term costs of accessing superannuation early?

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2020-04-30 22:19:22Z
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