WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Trump administration official urged China on Tuesday to allow the United States to work directly with laboratories in Wuhan on research into the novel coronavirus, saying this was critical to saving lives globally.

On Sunday, China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, said in a New York Times opinion piece there had been “unpleasant talk” between the two countries about the virus but that now was the time for “solidarity, collaboration and mutual support.”

“If Ambassador Cui is saying that China is willing to cooperate with the U.S., we would appreciate the opportunity to work directly with their Virology labs in Wuhan to share whatever research they have, since they’ve known about it and have been fighting it for at least a month longer than our scientists here in the U.S.,” the official said.

The comments come a day before Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated late last year, was poised to lift its lockdown after reporting only two new infections in the past fortnight.

“Since the pandemic originated in Wuhan, we think cooperation with PRC medical and disease experts there is critical to saving lives globally,” the administration official added.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Bernadette Baum)