China warns against presumptions over COVID-19 origin as WHO experts begin probe in Wuhan

K J M Varma
·3-min read

Beijing/Wuhan, Jan 28 (PTI) An assertive China cautioned against negative speculation and politicised interpretations over the origin of the coronavirus to Wuhan, as a WHO team of experts stepped out of their hotel on Thursday ending their two-week quarantine to make field visits in the central Chinese city, where COVID-19 first emerged in 2019.

The 14-member World Health Organization team of international scientists, who had been confined to their hotel in Wuhan due to the quarantine, kicked off the field part of their month-long mission to explore how the coronavirus transmitted presumably from bats or pangolins to humans.

Team members were seen boarding a bus outside their hotel in Wuhan in the noon after being cleared to leave following the mandatory isolation period.

Some of the WHO experts took to Twitter to express their relief over completing the quarantine period.

“Graduation!!!” virologist Marion Koopmans of the Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands tweeted along with a picture of her holding an official medical form noting the end of the quarantine.

“Congratulations!” the team leader, WHO animal disease expert Peter Ben Embarek, wrote in reply.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the media that the expert team will conduct interviews and discussions with their Chinese colleagues while complying with China's epidemic prevention regulations.

He cautioned against any speculation about any findings pinning the virus origin to Wuhan, where it first reported to have been transmitted from animal to human at a wet market.

The market was shut and sealed early last year.

China also emphatically denied former US President Donald Trump’s charge that the virus may have escaped from the bio-lab called the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“Presumptions, negative speculation and politicised interpretations will be very inappropriate and will bring unnecessary disruptions to WHO experts' joint study in China and is not conducive to reaching science-based conclusions,' Zhao said.

“On the origin tracing, there are reports and studies...that show origin tracing is an ongoing process that might involve many places and it is a complicated scientific matter that should be conducted by scientists all over the world,' he said.

While denying that coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China points to reports from Italy, Spain and the US about its prevalence to predating its emergence in Wuhan.

Also, Beijing appeared relieved over US President Joe Biden banning his predecessor's references to COVID-19 as “China virus and Wuhan virus” “Inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian-American and Pacific Islander persons, families, communities and businesses at risk,” Biden said in a memorandum released on Tuesday.

“The federal government must recognise that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin,” he said.

Reacting to Biden’s comments, Zhao said COVID-19 is the common enemy of all mankind regardless of ethnicity or nationality.

The WHO and the international community explicitly stated their opposition to linking the virus to any country.

The origin tracing must be conducted in a scientific manner. China rejects the labelling the virus and politicising the pandemic, he said.

“We hope the US can work with a responsible attitude respecting facts and science and the effort of the international team so that they conduct scientific studies free from the disturbance of political factors,' Zhao said. PTI KJV NSA AKJ NSA