Public Health Agency probes matter at National Microbiology Laboratory

OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada said Monday it is taking steps to expeditiously address an "administrative matter" at the National Microbiology Laboratory after it advised the Mounties of possible policy breaches.

The laboratory in Winnipeg is Canada's highest-security such facility, designed to deal safely with deadly contagious germs such as Ebola.

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The agency said in a statement that it alerted the RCMP of the possible breach on May 24, adding that no employee of the lab is "under arrest or confined to their home."

"For privacy reasons, we will not comment further," it said.

A spokeswoman for the RCMP in Manitoba said Monday that the force can confirm it received a referral from the health agency, adding it will not speculate on the potential outcome of the investigation.

"Based on information received to date, the RCMP has assessed that there is no threat to public safety at this time," said Cpl. Julie Courchaine.

Courchaine also said the force would not comment further to "maintain the integrity of the investigative process."

Public Health echoed that it can assure Canadians there is no risk to the public, adding that the work of the lab continues.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang was also asked about the matter during a press conference on Monday after CBC News published a story stating that a Chinese researcher was escorted from the lab amidst the RCMP investigation.

In an English transcript of a briefing posted to the Chinese foreign ministry's website, Geng said he's aware of the report but the Chinese Embassy in Canada has not received any notification that Chinese citizens are involved in the incident.

"If indeed there are Chinese citizens involved, our embassy and consulates will provide consular assistance and earnestly protect their legitimate rights and interests according to law," he said.

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