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 “rather taken aback” by the call for the origin of the epidemic and, in particular, the theory that the virus may have leaked from a Chinese laboratory.
He dismissed the laboratory leak theory as a rumor that 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 convening 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.
Tedros said he expected better cooperation and access to data from China, adding that gaining access to raw data was a challenge for the international expert team, which traveled to China this year to investigate the cause of the outbreak. can be done.
He also says there was a “premature push” to dismiss the theory that the coronavirus may have escaped from a Chinese government laboratory in Wuhan.
“I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I’ve worked in labs, and lab accidents happen,” Tedros said.
Tedros’ words were echoed by Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn, who urged Chinese officials to allow the investigation into the origins of the virus to proceed.
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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.
The team said that speculation focused on whether the virus most likely jumped from animals to humans originated in bats, which may have passed it to pangolins that are traditionally sold as a delicacy in Chinese wet markets. She was
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.
Zeng also said that Wuhan Institute of Virology staff and graduate students had become ill with the virus and may have transmitted it to others, were untrue.
He said China has “always supported scientific virus tracing,” and wants to see it expand to many countries and regions around the world.
“However, we are opposed to politicizing the tracing work,” Zeng said.
Zeng said the second phase of virus tracing should be based on the findings of the first phase after “full discussion and consultation by member states”.
China has repeatedly tried to shrug off allegations that the pandemic originated in Wuhan and allowed it to cover up initial bureaucratic misunderstandings and an attempt.
Government spokesmen have called for an investigation into whether it may have been produced in a US military laboratory, a theory not widely held in the scientific community.
China has largely eliminated local transmission of the virus through lockdowns, masking requirements and the distribution of more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine.
Just 12 new local cases were reported on Thursday and the virus death toll in China remains unchanged at 4,636.
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