China ‘shocked’ by WHO plan for COVID-19 origins study

US and others say China has not been transparent about events in early days of pandemic

A senior Chinese health official said on Thursday that China cannot accept the World Health Organization’s plan for the second phase of the study on the origins of COVID-19.

Zeng Yixin, deputy minister of the National Health Commission, said he was surprised by the plan, and in particular by the theory that the virus may have leaked from a Chinese laboratory.

He dismissed the theory as a rumor which is contrary to common sense and science.

“It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” he said at a news conference called to address the COVID-19 core issue.

The discovery of the virus’s origin has become a diplomatic issue that has strained China’s relations with the US and many of its allies. The US and others say China has not been transparent about what happened in the early days of the pandemic. China accuses critics of politicizing an issue that should be left to scientists.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged last week that it was premature to rule out a possible link between the pandemic and a leak from a Chinese government laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the disease was first detected in late 2019. was.

Zeng said that there is no virus in the Wuhan lab that can directly infect humans. He said a WHO-coordinated team of international experts who visited the laboratory earlier this year concluded that a laboratory leak was highly unlikely.

Most experts agree that the virus most likely passed from animals to humans. The highly politicized debate has centered on whether a laboratory leak is unlikely enough that the theory should be dismissed as a possibility, or if it deserves further study.

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