China on Thursday rejected the World Health Organization’s (WHO) plan 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.
China opposes politicizing the study into the origin of the virus, national health commission (NHC) vice minister Zeng Yixin said on Thursday.
Beijing’s angry reaction comes after WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said last week that it was premature to rule out a potential link between the Covid-19 pandemic and a laboratory leak, adding that he had asked China to be more transparent as scientists search for the origin of the coronavirus.
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 has voiced strong opposition against international opinion, which believes a high-security bio lab in Wuhan was the source of the virus.
There have also been a spate of articles, some offering very-plausible arguments on why the virus may have been engineered.
According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the pandemic has thus far infected at least 192.1mn people around the world, killed over 4.1mn while it has also ravaged economies.
Zeng said China cannot accept the current version of the WHO plan because it has been compromised by political manipulation and disrespects scientific facts.
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.
There was zero infection among staff and students at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said Yuan Zhiming, director of the National Biosafety Laboratory at the presser.
In a departure from his earlier narrative, 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.
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”.
China has consistently been on the offensive in countering allegations on the Wuhan lab leak theory.
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.
The rising numbers are a representation of the anger of the Chinese people at the political manipulation by some in the US on Covid-19 origin, Zhao said.