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‘We will not accept such a plan because it ignores common sense and defies science’
China on Thursday rejected a World Health Organization (WHO) plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, which includes the hypothesis that it could have escaped a Chinese lab, a top health official said.
The WHO this month proposed a second phase of investigations into the origin of the coronavirus in China, including audits of labs and markets in Wuhan city, and called for transparency from authorities.
“We will not accept such an origin tracing plan because in some ways it ignores common sense and defies science,” Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), told reporters.
Zeng said he was surprised when he first read the WHO plan because it lists the hypothesis that a Chinese violation of laboratory protocols had caused the virus to leak during the study.
“We hope that the WHO will seriously assess the considerations and suggestions of Chinese experts and truly treat the origin of the Covid-19 virus as a scientific matter and eliminate political interference,” Zeng said.
China resisted politicking the study, he said.
The first known cases emerged in December 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus was believed to have jumped to humans from animals sold as food at a city market.
In May, US President Joe Biden instructed his aides to find answers to questions about its origins, saying US intelligence agencies were pursuing rival theories.
Zeng, along with other officials and Chinese experts at the press conference at the WHO, urged extending origin tracing efforts outside of China to other countries.
“We believe that a laboratory leak is extremely unlikely and there is no need to invest more energy and efforts in this regard,” said Liang Wannian, the Chinese team leader in the WHO’s joint team of experts.
However, Liang said the lab leak hypothesis could not be discounted completely, but suggested that if the evidence was warranted, other countries could investigate whether it was leaked from their labs.
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