China rejects WHO’s call to renew investigation into the origins of Covid-19

China on Friday rejected requests from the World Health Organization for renewed investigation into the origins of Covid-19, saying it supported “scientific” over “political” efforts to find out how the virus started.

Once again, pressure on Beijing is mounting to consider new research into the origins of a pandemic that has killed more than four million people and crippled economies worldwide since it first emerged in the city of Wuhan. in central China.

A delayed and highly politicized visit by a team of international experts from WHO went to Wuhan in January 2021 to produce a first-phase report, which was written together with their Chinese counterparts. He was unable to conclude how the virus started.

On Thursday, the WHO urged China to share raw data from the first cases of Covid-19 to revive its investigation into the origins of the disease.

China responded, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said it has never rejected cooperation to trace the origins of Covid-19, but rejects the politicization of such a search, state media reported.

“We oppose the political tracing … and the abandonment of the joint report” issued after the WHO team’s visit to Wuhan, Ma told reporters. “We support scientific tracking.”

The joint report said passage of the virus from bats to humans via an intermediate animal was the most likely scenario, while a leak from the Wuhan virology laboratories was “extremely unlikely.”

Ma rejected suggestions for new lines of investigation.

“The conclusions and recommendations of the joint WHO-China report were recognized by the international community and the scientific community,” he said.

“Future global traceability work should and can only be carried out on the basis of this report, rather than starting a new one.”

China continues to conduct a “follow-up and complementary” investigation into the origins of the new coronavirus as specified in the joint report, Ma said.

The WHO on Thursday called on all governments to cooperate to accelerate studies on the origins of the pandemic and “depoliticize the situation.”

Laboratory leak theory

Faced with China’s reluctance to open up to outside researchers, experts are increasingly open to considering the theory that the virus could have leaked from a laboratory, once dismissed as a conspiracy propagated by the American far right.

Even WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the initial investigation at the Wuhan virology laboratories had not gone far enough, while US President Joe Biden in May ordered a separate investigation into the origins of the virus to the US intelligence community.

A call from the WHO last month for the second stage of the investigation to include audits of the Wuhan laboratories angered Beijing, and Vice Health Minister Zeng Yixin said the plan showed “a lack of respect for common sense and arrogance towards science. “

Meanwhile, Danish scientist Peter Ben Embarek, who led the international mission to Wuhan, said that an infected laboratory employee while taking samples in the field falls under one of the likely hypotheses about how the virus passed from bats to humans.

He told Danish public channel TV2 that the suspected bats were not from the Wuhan region and that the only people likely to approach them were workers from the Wuhan laboratories.

Ben Embarek previously acknowledged in an interview with Science magazine that “politics was always in the room with us” during the trip to Wuhan, which was mired in delays after China initially stopped approval for entry by international researchers. .

( Jowharwith AFP, REUTERS)

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