A furious China has rejected a move to put the Wuhan Institute of Virology under the spotlight once again as leak theories surrounding how Covid-19 first emerged in the Chinese city fail to go away.
While a raft of experts, including many on the World Health Organisation (WHO) team which travelled to Wuhan to learn more on the virus's emergence in the community, have said such an occurrence is highly unlikely, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier this year surprisingly said more work was needed to be done investigating a possible lab leak.
It is a theory fuelled by the US, particularly while former secretary of state Mike Pompeo was in office, who claimed of having substantial evidence a leak had occurred.
The WHO this month proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities.
Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), said he was taken aback when he first read the WHO plan because it lists the hypothesis that a Chinese violation of laboratory protocols had caused the virus to leak during research.
"We will not accept such an origins-tracing plan as it, in some aspects, disregards common sense and defies science," Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), told reporters.
Dr Tedros said earlier in July that investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there.
Zeng reiterated China's position that some data could not be completely shared due to privacy concerns.
"We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference," Zeng said.
Liang Wannian, the Chinese team leader on the WHO joint expert team, called for further studies into animals, particularly bats, in other countries.
China issues five Covid questions to the US
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that the Biden administration is "deeply disappointed" in China's decision and told reporters that "their position is irresponsible and, frankly, dangerous".
China has been hostile to suggestion the virus leaked from a lab, and has pointed the finger back at the US when antagonised.
The Biden administration has continued the pressure on China over the theory with the president in May ordering aides to find answers to questions over the origin saying that US intelligence agencies were pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident.
Amid ongoing claims from within the US three workers in the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill with a Covid-like illness in November 2019, China's foreign ministry hit back on Wednesday posing five questions to Washington about far-fetched theories the virus emerged in the US.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian lambasted the lab leak theory as a "false claim" with no evidence before saying it was time for the US to answer China's questions.
"According to the US NIH website, research has shown that evidence of infection in five US states appeared back in December 2019. How does the US respond to this?" he asked.
"In Florida, 171 people with no travel history to China had coronavirus symptoms earlier than the state's first reported case. How does the US account for this?
"The mayor of Belleville, New Jersey, got infected in November 2019, over two months earlier than the first confirmed case in the US. How does the US explain this?
"The EVALI outbreaks that swept through several US states in July 2019 caused pulmonary symptoms highly similar to those of COVID-19. Can the US offer some clarifications?
"The US instantaneously clams up whenever there is a call for an WHO investigation into Fort Detrick and the 200-plus US biological laboratories overseas. What dark secrets are hidden out of sight at Fort Detrick?"
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