China rejects next stage of WHO Covid origins probe

China has rejected the next phase of an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 led by the World Health Organization because investigators plan to consider the theory that it may have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.

Zeng Yixin, deputy minister of the National Health Commission, told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that he was “shocked” to see that the hypothesis of the “laboratory leak” had become part of the proposed WTO plan for a second phase study.

“We can not accept this kind of detection plan,” he said, reiterating China’s claim that the theory provoked the virus from a government laboratory in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the disease was discovered in late 2019. has.

Beijing has consistently said that the original investigation should not dispute the finding of Chinese and WHO scientists in the first phase of the investigation that there was a laboratory leakextremely unlikely”. According to China, investigators should rather provide evidence of the first human Covid-19 infections outside the country.

But Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said last week that it was “premature” to rule out the possibility that Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, accidentally left a laboratory in Wuhan be released.

The WTO’s proposed plan for the next phase of its investigation has not been announced. But Tedros said it includes “audits of relevant laboratories and research institutes working in the area of ​​the initial cases of people identified in December 2019”.

Scientists are divided over the theory of “laboratory leaks” and whether it should be a focal point of research to track how Covid-19 first infected humans.

Many believe that the virus probably jumped from another animal, probably bats, to another intermediate host through a natural process before infecting humans. Others argue that existing evidence does not eliminate laboratory leak theory.

Joe Biden, the US President, asked In May, US intelligence agencies ‘doubled’ their efforts to reach a consensus on the most likely theory of origin and called on the WHO to ensure that the next phase of its investigation includes China.

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Beijing has accused the U.S. of politicizing a scientific effort, and also suggested that Covid-19 may have leaked from Fort Detrick, a U.S. military laboratory. China has not provided any evidence to substantiate its claim.

“The US immediately fires up when there is a call for a WHO investigation into Fort Detrick,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “What dark secrets are hidden out of sight in Fort Detrick?”

Zeng also denied that Chinese researchers tried to hide anything when they asked that samples of Covid-19 sequence data have been removed from a US database. The scientists simply asked that the samples be removed after the editing process was completed, as it was no longer necessary, he said.

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