BEIJING: China rejected a World Health Organization (WHO) plan for the second phase of a probe into the origins of the coronavirus on Thursday, citing the possibility that it escaped from a Chinese laboratory as a reason, according to a top health official.
The WHO proposed the second phase of research into the origins of the coronavirus in China this month, including audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, and called on authorities to be transparent.
Zeng Yixin, the vice-minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), told reporters, “We will not accept such an origins-tracing plan since it, in some ways, disregards common sense and contradicts science.”
When Zeng initially read the WHO plan, he was taken aback since it mentions the possibility that the virus leaked during the study due to a Chinese violation of laboratory regulations.
“We hope the WHO will take the Chinese experts’ thoughts and proposals seriously and handle the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific subject free of political influence,” Zeng said.
He stated that China was opposed to politicizing the study.
Experts disagree about where the virus came from.
In December of this year, the first instances were discovered in Wuhan, a city in central China. The virus was thought to have migrated from animals sold for food at a city market to humans.
In May, US President Joe Biden directed advisers to discover answers to the origin issues, claiming that US intelligence services were examining competing possibilities, including the possibility of a Chinese laboratory accident.
At the news conference, Zeng and other authorities and Chinese specialists pushed the WHO to expand origin-tracing operations beyond China to other countries.
“We feel a lab leak is quite rare, and we do not believe it is necessary to expend additional energy and resources in this area,” Liang Wannian, the Chinese team leader on the WHO joint expert panel, stated.
However, Liang stated that the lab leak scenario could not be completely dismissed, and that if evidence merited, other countries may investigate the possibility that it leaked from their laboratories.