China on Thursday rejected the World Health Organization’s (WHO) plan to return to Wuhan for the second phase of the Covid-19 origin study, saying it is “shocked” by the proposal as it contains language that does not respect science.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus presented member states last week with a plan for further study that would include audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first cases were identified.
He also called for greater transparency from Beijing.
“We cannot accept this kind of plan for origin-tracing,” Zeng Yixin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, told a news conference Thursday.
Mr. Zeng said he was shocked by the proposal, adding that aspects of it “did not respect common sense and violated science.” Instead, he said Beijing had on July 4 submitted to the WHO its own proposal for a second phase, which he said should be based on the first phase that was conducted by a WHO-led team and their Chinese counterparts early this year, Wall Street Journal reports
China opposes politicising the study into the origin of the virus, national health commission (NHC) vice minister Zeng Yixin said on Thursday.
The first cases of the disease were identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 before it triggered the worst pandemic in a century, killing and infecting millions and stalling the global economy.
China is strongly opposed of international opnion that claims that the origin of the virus was from a high-security bio lab in Wuhan.
“Finding the origins of this virus is a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics,” Ghebreyesus said. “For that to happen, we expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency.”
The WHO has been under growing pressure to step up its investigation into the origin of the virus, which first emerged in Wuhan and has now killed more than 4.1 million people around the world.
Chinese state media quoted Zeng as saying the second phase of the proposed study has listed the hypothesis that China had violated lab regulations and leaked the virus as one of the major research objectives, and he was “very shocked” after reading the proposal.
“We hope the WHO should carefully consider the advice by Chinese scientists, take investigating the origin of the Covid-19 virus as a scientific question free from political interference, and proactively and properly conduct sustained investigations into the origin of the virus in various countries,” he said.
Zeng rejected that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had three infected workers, carried out gain-of-function research – which increases the virulence of virus – and engineered the virus.
Yuan Zhiming, director of the National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said at the presser that no staff and students at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was infected with the virus. He insisted that the virus was of natural origin.
According to an Associated Press report from Berlin, Tedros told reporters that the UN health agency based in Geneva is “actually asking China to be transparent, open and cooperate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for in the early days of the pandemic”.
The WHO chief had said last week that getting access to raw data had been a challenge for the international team of scientists who travelled to China earlier this year to investigate the Covid-19 origin.
China has consistently been on the offensive in countering allegations on the Wuhan lab leak theory.
Chinese officials insinuate political manipulation by some in the US on Covid-19 origin.
On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that in less than five days, about 5 million Chinese have signed an open letter, asking the WHO to investigate the US’ Fort Detrick lab over Covid-19 origin instead.
NEWS/PHOTO SORCE: World News Agencies