Wuhan Institute of Virology
© Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images
Wuhan Institute of Virology
Chinese scientists say the coronavirus didn't originate at a live animal market or a laboratory in Wuhan, pushing back against US officials over where the pandemic began, according to a report.

China's top epidemiologist, Gao Fu, said samples taken from the wholesale market — where the deadly virus was reportedly first passed to humans — failed to show links between animals sold there and the pathogen, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"It now turns out that the market is one of the victims," Gao told state-run media Tuesday.

The director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Wang Yanyi, also shot down accusations that the facility had unleashed the virus during a lab accident.

There's no way it could have leaked from the laboratory because researchers have not studied pathogens similar enough to the coronavirus, he told the state-run China Central Television.

While both officials said they'd ruled out the sites as a possible ground zero, their comments didn't address important issues such as widespread evidence that China initially covered up the severity of the outbreak.

The question of where the coronavirus began has been hotly disputed among Chinese and US officials in recent months, with President Trump dubbing it the "Chinese Virus" and blaming the country for failing to halt its spread. Chinese officials have pointed fingers at the US, with one government spokesman saying the US Army is responsible for the outbreak.

As of Wednesday, more than 5.5 million people had been infected with the coronavirus globally, and the death toll had topped 350,000.