China on Thursday rejected the World Health Organization’s plan to further investigate the origins of Covid-19, CNN reports.
The WHO released an initial report in March that determined that the virus likely originated in an animal before jumping to humans in December 2019. But western countries raised skepticism about the report and the WHO later said that China did not provide “raw data” from the early days of the pandemic and called for “audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019.”
"We ask China to be transparent and open and to cooperate," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference. "We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened."
Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the National Health Commission, said the government was “surprised” to see the WHO’s plans to focus on a potential lab leak theory that has been raised by several western governments.
"In some aspects, the WHO's plan for next phase of investigation of the coronavirus origin doesn't respect common sense, and it's against science. It's impossible for us to accept such a plan," he said.
Zeng also downplayed reports that several workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology needed hospital care after getting sick shortly before the first documented cases of the coronavirus.
"No worker or researcher at the WIV got infected by coronavirus,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed that the government has fully cooperated with the WHO probe.
"China's position on the issue of global origin-tracing is consistent and clear. (The) origins study is a scientific issue. All parties should respect the opinions of scientists and scientific conclusions, instead of politicizing the issue," he said.
Experts doubt lab leak:
Most experts don’t think a lab leak resulted in the Covid outbreak, according to NPR, but the WHO has warned that there was a “premature push” early in the pandemic to dismiss it.
"We believe a lab leak is extremely unlikely and it is not necessary to invest more energy and efforts in this regard," said Liang Wannian, the Chinese team leader on the WHO joint expert team, adding that it cannot be completely discounted.