China on Thursday rejected a World Health Organization (WHO) plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origin of a carnivirus, including a hypothesis that it could escape from a Chinese laboratory, a top health official said.
The WHO this month proposed a final second-stage study on the origin of the coronavirus, demanding transparency from authorities, including audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan.
“We will not adopt such a source-tracing plan because it disregards common sense in some respects and denies science,” Zheng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), told reporters. ) Told reporters.
Zheng said he was forgotten when he first read the WHO plan because it made a list of assumptions that the virus was leaked during a lab in violation of a Chinese laboratory protocol.
The head of the WHO said in early July that investigations into the source of the COVID-19 epidemic in China were hampered by a lack of raw information in the early days of its spread there.
Zheng restored China’s position that some information could not be fully shared due to privacy concerns.
“We hope that the WHO will seriously review the considerations and suggestions given by Chinese experts and indeed consider the invention of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter and free from political interference,” Zheng said.
He said China was opposed to politicization in the survey.
The origin of the viruses remains in competition among experts.
In December 2012, the first known cases were uncovered in the central city of Wuhan in the Middle East. A virus is thought to have spread from animals sold for food in a city market to humans.
In May, U.S. President Joe Biden sought answers to questions about the source of the aid, saying U.S. intelligence agencies were pursuing potential rival theories, including the possibility of a laboratory crash in China.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jane Sasaki said the Biden administration was “deeply disappointed” with China’s decision and told reporters that “their position is irresponsible and, indeed, dangerous.”
At the news conference, Zheng, along with other officials and Chinese experts, called on the WHO to expand its mainstream efforts beyond China.
“We believe that a lab leak is not a final possibility and there is no need to invest more energy and effort in this regard,” said Liang Wanian, leader of the China team of the WHO’s joint expert team. He added that more animals should be studied, especially in countries with bat populations.
Liang, however, said that the hypothesis of lab leaks could not be completely ruled out, but suggested that other countries could look into the possibility of leaks from their labs if the evidence was proven.
A key part of the lab leak theory has centered on the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) decision in 2019 to take its gene sequencing and sample databases offline.
Asked about the decision, Yuan Zhiming, a professor at WIV and director of its National Biosafety Laboratory, told reporters that the databases were currently shared only internally due to concerns about cyber attacks.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed))