Says it goes 'against science'
Beijing has withdrawn from the World Health Organization's (WHO) study into the origins of Covid-19, claiming its opposition to any investigation into the likelihood that the virus originated in a laboratory.
According to Zeng Yixin, deputy head of China's National Health Commission, the Chinese government would not participate in a second phase of the WHO's investigation into what caused the pandemic.
At a news briefing in Beijing, the senior health official said he was "surprised" to see research into the slab leak scenario – which the WHO had previously considered as highly unlikely – listed as a goal for the organization's proposed second visit to Wuhan and other Chinese cities.
“In some ways, the WHO's plan for the next phase of the coronavirus investigation defies common sense and is contrary to science. We are unable to accept such a plan,” he stated.
During the same news conference, Liang Wannian, a distinguished scientist and the Chinese representative for the WHO's joint inquiry, said that instead of returning to China, the team of specialists should focus on the "very likely" probability that coronavirus originated in animals. He also mentioned instances of Covid-19 being found in wastewater from various nations around the same time the sickness was initially discovered in Wuhan and advised that scientists broaden their search outside China.
The news conference was also used by Chinese officials to underline that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was unrelated to the disease. Yuan Zhiming, director of China's National Biosafety Laboratory and professor at the Wuhan lab, emphasized that he and his colleagues had never stored or examined the unique coronavirus prior to December 30, 2019.
The specialists concluded in their initial study after spending roughly four weeks in China early this year that the virus most likely started in an animal before spreading to humans in December 2019. But the findings have come under attack from Western states, which argue the study lacked openness. Since then, US President Joe Biden has directed US intelligence services to begin their own investigation into the origins of the health issue.
In the early months of the health crisis, Donald Trump's administration endorsed the hypothesis that Covid-19 may have spilled from a laboratory — possibly the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The concept was dismissed as improbable and even dangerous misinformation by US media sources at the time. However, once Washington began to question the completeness of the WHO's first results, the hypothesis has gained traction in recent months.
The World Health Organization has highlighted similar worries about China's alleged lack of transparency. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization's director-general, urged Beijing to be "transparent and open and to cooperate" with the organization's ongoing investigation into Covid-19's origins last week.
Beijing has denied the claims and stated that it has fully cooperated with the international probe.
Last Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhao Lijian said the investigation of the origin is a "scientific issue," and that "all parties should respect the opinions of scientists and scientific conclusions, rather than politicizing the issue."
Although Beijing appears to have ruled out the chance that the virus originated in a Chinese lab, it has not ruled out the potential that it originated in an American laboratory. After 4.7 million Chinese petitioned the WHO to send experts to the US military installation in Maryland, the Chinese Foreign Ministry welcomed requests for an investigation into whether coronavirus originated there.