China shocked at WHO plan for Covid origins investigation

·2-min read
Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of China's National Health Commission, speaks at a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing on Thursday, where he rejected the World Health Organization's plan for the second phase of a Covid-19 origins study (AP)
Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of China's National Health Commission, speaks at a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing on Thursday, where he rejected the World Health Organization's plan for the second phase of a Covid-19 origins study (AP)

China has rejected the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ‘s plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origins of coronavirus, the country’s senior health official has said.

Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission, said on Thursday that he is shocked by WHO’s plan which includes investigating the theory that the virus may have escaped from a Chinese laboratory.

“We will not accept such an origins-tracing plan as it, in some aspects, disregards common sense and defies science,” Mr Zeng told reporters during a briefing.

“It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” he said.

There has been increasing tension between China and western countries over the origin of Covid-19 over recent months. The US and others have accused China of a lack of transparency over the data, while China has accused the US and allies of politicising science.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO recently acknowledged that it was premature to rule out a potential link between the pandemic and a leak from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan, the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019. He also earlier said the investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of the spread there.

Mr Zeng reiterated China’s position that some data could not be completely shared due to privacy concerns.

“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the Covid-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Mr Zeng said.

The origin of the virus remains contested among experts. Most scientists initially believed the virus jumped from animals sold at a food market in Wuhan to humans.

Mr Zeng, along with other officials and Chinese experts at the news conference, urged the WHO to expand origin-tracing efforts beyond China to other countries.

“We believe a lab leak is extremely unlikely and it is not necessary to invest more energy and efforts in this regard,” said Liang Wannian, the Chinese team leader on the WHO joint expert team. More animal studies should be conducted, in particular in countries with bat populations, he said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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