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Wuhan lab head calls virus leak claims 'pure fabrication'

Claims promoted by the Trump administration that the global coronavirus pandemic originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the central Chinese city are a “pure fabrication," the institute's director said.

Wang Yanyi was quoted by state media Sunday as saying the institute did not have “any knowledge before that nor had we ever met, researched or kept the virus … We didn’t even know about the existence of the virus, so how could it be leaked from our lab when we didn’t have it?”

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly said they suspect the virus that was first detected in Wuhan was somehow released from the laboratory.

A young boy and a woman use the bike path at Echo Park Lake with downtown Los Angeles in the background Saturday, May 23, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved 45 of California's 58 counties to reopen some businesses since May 8 when he loosened his original mid-March stay-at-home order. (AP PhotoMark J. Terrill)

Most scientists say the pathogen that has infected 5.3 million and killed more than 342,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, was passed from bats to humans via an intermediary species likely sold at a wet market in Wuhan late last year.

The virus' toll continued to ebb in Asia and other parts of the world, with China on Sunday reporting three new confirmed cases and just 79 people remaining in treatment for COVID-19.

The New York Times devoted Sunday’s entire front page to a long list of names of people who have died in the pandemic.

People utilize the Echo Park Lake recreation area Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Los Angeles during the coronavirus pandemic. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved 45 of California's 58 counties to reopen some businesses since May 8 when he loosened his original mid-March stay-at-home order. (AP PhotoMark J. Terrill)

The names and brief descriptions culled from obituaries from around the country fill six columns under the headline “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss."

“They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us,” read the subheadline.

In Australia, officials said 6 million residents have downloaded a mobile telephone app that helps health authorities trace coronavirus infections. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the COVIDSafe app is playing a strong role in Australia’s response to the disease.

People gather at Echo Park Lake, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Los Angeles during the coronavirus pandemic. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved 45 of California's 58 counties to reopen some businesses since May 8 when he loosened his original mid-March stay-at-home order. (AP PhotoMark J. Terrill)

The U.S. is continuing a cautious state-by-state reopening.A pasta company in Spokane, Washington, announced there was an outbreak at its plant, while the Alaska Baseball League canceled its summer season. The five-team league is made up of college players from mostly the Lower 48 but also from places as far away as Taiwan.

Trump played golf at one of his courses Saturday during the Memorial Day weekend as he urged U.S. states to relax their lockdowns. Yet many Americans remained cautious as the number of confirmed cases nationwide passed 1.6 million.

In California, where many businesses and recreational activities are reopening, officials in Los Angeles County said they would maintain tight restrictions until July 4.

A health worker in a protective suit checks the temperature of worshippers prior to entering Al Mashun Grand Mosque's compound to attend an Eid al Fitr prayer amid concerns of coronavirus outbreak in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Millions of people in the world's largest Muslim nation are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan - a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP PhotoBinsar Bakkara)

Statewide, New York reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths — 84 — in many weeks in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described as a critical benchmark. The daily death tally peaked at 799 on April 8.

Parts of New Orleans stirred to back life, with some restaurants and businesses opening for the first time in over two months. Some remained closed, especially in the French Quarter, which relies largely on tourist dollars.

Many governments are easing restrictions as they face a political backlash and historic economic recessions.

Muslims wearing face masks attend the Eid al-Fitr prayers outside a mosque in Gaza City, Sunday, May. 24, 2020. Millions of people in the world's largest Muslim nation are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan _ a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP PhotoKhalil Hamra)

Turkey, which has recorded over 155,000 infections, imposed its toughest lockdown measures yet for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Yemen’s Houthi rebels urged believers to use masks and stay inside, as authorities try to contain infections at a time usually marked by multigenerational feasting and collective prayer.

In Germany, which has drawn praise for its handling of the virus, seven people appear to have been infected at a restaurant in the northwest of the country. It would be the first such known case since restaurants started reopening two weeks ago.

And in Frankfurt, more than 40 people tested positive after a church service of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation May 10. A church leader said the congregation has canceled gatherings and is now holding services online.

Worshippers wearing protective face masks offer Eid al-Fitr prayers marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, outside a mosque to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Muslims worldwide celebrate one of their biggest holidays under the long shadow of the coronavirus, with millions confined to their homes and others gripped by economic concerns during what is usually a festive time of shopping and celebration. In Iran, which has endured the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East, authorities have imposed few restrictions ahead of the holiday aside from cancelling mass prayers in Tehran traditionally led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (AP PhotoVahid Salemi)

Mindful of evangelical Christians who are key to his base ahead of November’s election, Trump on Friday called houses of worship “essential” and urged governors to let them reopen this weekend. However, leaders of many denominations said they plan to move gradually and cautiously.

France allowed in-person services to resume Saturday after a legal challenge to a ban on gatherings in places of worship.

One of the world’s major pilgrimage sites is reopening Sunday: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

A boy walks past a disinfectant sprayer at the Al Mashun Grand Mosque to attend Eid al Fitr prayer amid concerns of coronavirus outbreak in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Millions of people in the world's largest Muslim nation are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan _ a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP PhotoBinsar Bakkara)

Latin America is the latest epicenter of the virus, and experts note the limitations of government action in a region where millions have informal jobs and many police forces are unable to enforce restrictions.

Brazil and Mexico reported record numbers of infections and deaths almost daily this week, fueling criticism of their presidents for limited lockdowns. But infections also rose and intensive care units were swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador, all lauded for imposing early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines.

Concerns are rising in India, where new cases showed another record jump Saturday, topping 6,000 for a second consecutive day as a two-month lockdown has eased.

Muslims offer the Eid al Fitr prayer despite concerns of the coronavirus outbreak at Al Mashun Grand Mosque in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Millions of people in the world's largest Muslim nation are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan _ a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP PhotoBinsar Bakkara)

While some countries are facing a second wave of infections, badly hit Russia is still struggling with its first and reported more than 9,000 new cases Saturday.

Follow AP pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Muslim women perform during an Eid al Fitr prayer despite concerns of the new coronavirus outbreak, at a mosque in Lhokseumawe in the deeply conservative Aceh province, Indonesia, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Millions of people in the world's largest Muslim nation are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan - a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP PhotoZik Maulana)

A security officer checks the temperature of a woman before she enters Baiturrahman Grand Mosque to attend an Eid al Fitr prayer in Banda Aceh in the deeply conservative Aceh province, Indonesia, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Millions of people in the world's largest Muslim nation are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan - a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP PhotoHeri Juanda)

This aerial photo shows Muslims performing during an Eid al-Fitr prayer despite concerns of the new coronavirus outbreak, at Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh in the deeply conservative Aceh province, Indonesia, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Millions of people in the world's largest Muslim nation are marking a muted and gloomy religious festival of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan - a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP PhotoHeri Juanda)

Muslims wearing protective masks prepare to pray outside the closed National Mosque while celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end the holy fasting month of Ramadan, amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, May 24, 2020. (AP PhotoVincent Thian)

A Muslim man wearing a protective mask prepares to pray outside the closed National Mosque while celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end the holy fasting month of Ramadan, amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, May 24, 2020. (AP PhotoVincent Thian)

Children play in downtown Lima, Peru, Saturday, May 23, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (AP PhotoRodrigo Abd)

People gather on the beach for the Memorial Day weekend in Port Aransas, Texas, Saturday, May 23, 2020. Beachgoers are being urged to practice social distancing to guard against COVID-19. (AP PhotoEric Gay)

People visit Pensacola Beach in Pensacola, Fla., Saturday, May 23, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (David GrunfeldThe Advocate via AP)

People enjoy Pensacola Beach in Pensacola, Fla., Saturday, May 23, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (David GrunfeldThe Advocate via AP)

Nicolas Ferreira, 27, from Argentina, takes a break while waiting to juggle for drivers on a corner in downtown Lima, Peru, Saturday, May 23, 2020. Nicolas is allowed to perform in the streets after more than two months of quarantine in the country amid the new coronavirus pandemic. The government-declared emergency will last until June 30. (AP PhotoRodrigo Abd)