China rejects WHO plan for further study into COVID-19 origins

China rejects WHO plan for further study into COVID-19 origins
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A senior Chinese health official on Thursday said Beijing could not accept the World Health Organization's (WHO) plan for opening a second phase of its study into the origins of COVID-19.

As The Associated Press reports, Zeng Yixin, vice minister of China's National Health Commission, said he was "rather taken aback" that the next phase of the WHO's investigation involved looking into the theory that COVID-19 could have originated from a lab leak.

“It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” Zeng said at a news conference, adding that he believed the plan went against common sense.

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"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, according to the AP.

Zeng also stated that the Wuhan lab in question does not have any viruses that could directly infect humans and pointed to a WHO team that had concluded a lab leak was highly unlikely.

In March, the WHO team released a report along with Chinese scientists stating that COVID-19 most likely jumped from animals to humans. The report stated that there was “a likely to very likely pathway” that the virus began in bats or other animals before jumping to humans.

However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week said the lab leak theory was still a possibility and said it had been "premature" to rule it out.

“In any outbreak, you go and understand the origins,” Tedros told reporters. “We need to know what happened in order to prevent the next one.”

“I think we owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died really to understand what happened,” he added.