China has rejected terms proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to further investigate the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on China to be more cooperative regarding the early stages of the epidemic, including with laboratory audits.
Zeng Yixin, deputy health minister, said it showed “disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science.”
He said the plan was politicized and China could not agree to it.
The WHO was only able to send a team of experts to Wuhan – the city where the virus was first detected in December 2019 – only in January of this year.
Their investigators concluded that it was highly unlikely that the coronavirus escaped from a lab, but the theory persisted.
Earlier this month, Dr Tedros outlined the terms of a proposed second phase of the WHO investigation, including audits of scientific research institutes in the region where the virus was first identified. times.
He urged Beijing to “be transparent, open and cooperate” with investigators and provide raw patient data that was not shared in the first investigation.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Zeng said he was extremely surprised by the WHO proposal as it focused on alleged violations of Chinese laboratory protocols.
He said it was “impossible” for China to agree to the terms, adding that the country had submitted its own recommendations on the tracing of origins.
“We hope that the WHO will seriously consider the considerations and suggestions made by the Chinese experts and genuinely treat the search for the origin of the Covid-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” said Mr. Zeng quoting Mr. Zeng.
Yuan Zhiming, director of the National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, also appeared at the press conference. He said the virus was naturally occurring and no virus leaks or staff infections had occurred at the facility since it opened in 2018.
More than four million people have died worldwide since the start of the pandemic and the WHO has faced increasing international pressure to further investigate the origins of the virus.
Earlier this year, US President Joe Biden also ordered US intelligence officials to “redouble” their own efforts to investigate the pandemic.
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