WHO’s audit plan to investigate Wuhan Lab to study Covid-19 origins show ‘disrespect to science’- China’s vice health minister
China’s vice health minister Zeng Yixin has described the World Health Organization (WHO) proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of the thorough study to unearth the root of coronavirus pandemic has “disrespect” and “arrogance to science”.
Yixin stated this on Thursday while fielding questions from reporters against the backdrop of the statement released last week by UN health body in the second stage of the international probe which included the auditing of Chinese labs, amid the pressure from the United States for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan.
Stated clearly in the proposal outlined by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus included “audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019” – referring to the Chinese city of Wuhan.
“Extremely surprised” by the plan, which showed “disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science”, said China’s vice health minister Zeng Yixin
Long derided as a right-wing conspiracy theory and vehemently rejected by Beijing, the idea that Covid-19 may have emerged from a lab leak has been gaining momentum.
Beijing has repeatedly insisted that a leak would have been “extremely unlikely”, citing the conclusion reached by a joint WHO-Chinese mission to Wuhan in January. At the same time, Chinese officials and state media have pushed an alternate theory that the virus could have escaped from the US military research lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Nationalist tabloid Global Times said it had collected five million signatures from Chinese web users on a petition to investigate the US lab.
Top officials have also amplified theories that the virus may have been imported with frozen food.
Also, the director of the National Biosafety Laboratory, Yuan Zhiming at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, at the press conference said “no pathogen leakage or staff infection accidents have occurred” since the lab opened in 2018.
One key part of the lab leak theory has centred on the Wuhan institute’s decision to take offline its gene sequence and sample databases in 2019.
When asked about this decision, he said that at present the databases were only shared internally due to cyber attack concerns.
China has in recent days faced accusations from the WHO that it had not shared the necessary raw data during the first phase of the investigation, with Tedros urging Beijing to “be transparent, to be open and cooperate” on a second phase.
Tedros on Friday also called for more studies of animal markets in and The UN health agency has been under intensifying pressure for a new, more in-depth investigation of how the disease that has killed more than four million people around the world first emerged.
The WHO was only able to send a team of independent, international experts to Wuhan in January, more than a year after Covid-19 first surfaced there, to help Chinese counterparts probe the pandemic’s origins.
Thursday’s comments come ahead of a weekend trip to China by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to address deteriorating ties between the two countries.
It is the highest-level visit under President Joe Biden and comes amid tensions between the two powers over issues including the pandemic’s origins, human rights and cybersecurity.