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China Refuses WHO Plan To Probe COVID-19 Lab Origin Theory

BEIJING (AP) – China is unable to accept the World Health Organization’s plan for a second phase of research into the origins of COVID-19, a senior Chinese health official said Thursday.

Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was “somewhat perplexed” that the plan includes further investigations into the theory that the virus may have leaked from a Chinese laboratory.

He dismissed the idea of ​​a laboratory leak as a rumor contrary to common sense and science.

“It is impossible for us to accept such an origin tracing plan,” he said at a press conference on the origin of COVID-19.

Finding the origin of the virus has become a diplomatic problem fueling Chinese deterioration in relations with the United States and many American allies. The US and others say China was not transparent about what happened in the early days of the pandemic. China accuses critics of trying to blame it for the pandemic and politicize an issue that should be left to scientists.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, recognized last week that after the first phase of the study, there was a “premature push” to rule out the theory that the virus could have escaped a Chinese government laboratory in Wuhan, the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.

Most experts don’t think a laboratory leak is a likely cause. The question is whether this possibility is so unlikely that it should be discarded or deserves further study.

The first phase was carried out earlier this year by an international team of scientists who came to Wuhan to work with their Chinese counterparts. After that, the team was accused of submitting to the requirements of the Chinese side. originally indicated this further study was unnecessary.

Zeng said there is no virus in the Wuhan lab that can directly infect humans, and noted that the WHO team has concluded that a leak in the lab is highly unlikely. He added that the assumptions that the lab’s staff and graduate students were infected and may have begun to spread the virus in the city are not true.

Yuan Zhiming, director of the biosafety laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said they did not store or study the new coronavirus prior to the outbreak. “I want to emphasize that … the Wuhan Institute of Virology has never designed, produced or distributed a new coronavirus,” he said.

IN The WHO team completed that the virus most likely passed from animals to humans, probably from bats to an intermediate animal. The experts visited markets in Wuhan where live animals were sold and recommended further research into the farms that were supplied to the market.

“In the next step, I think animal tracking should still be a priority. This is the most valuable field for our efforts, ”Liang Wannian, who led the Chinese side, said at a press conference on Thursday.

Tedros said last week that he hopes for better collaboration and data access from China. “We ask China to be transparent, open and cooperative, especially regarding the information, raw data that we requested in the early days of the pandemic,” he said.

His words were supported at the same virtual press conference by German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who called on China to intensify cooperation in the search for the origin of the virus.

Zeng said China has always supported “scientific virus tracking” and wants the research to be extended to other countries and regions. “However, we are against the politicization of the search work,” he said.

China has often tried to deflect accusations that the pandemic originated in Wuhan and was able to spread due to early bureaucratic errors and cover-up attempts.

Government officials have called for an investigation into whether the virus could have been produced in a US military laboratory, a theory that has not gained widespread acceptance in the scientific community.

China has largely ended local transmission of COVID through isolation and wearing masks, and more than 1.4 billion doses of Chinese vaccines have now been administered. Only 12 new infections were reported domestically on Thursday, and the death toll from the virus in China has remained unchanged for several months at 4,636.

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