China has rejected the conditions proposed by the World Health Organization in order to proceed with the investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 epidemic.
WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on China to be more cooperative in investigating the early stages of the outbreak, including laboratory audits.
This showed “disrespect for common sense and arrogance about science,” said Zeng Yixin, China’s deputy health minister.
He also said that the plan was politicized and that China could not accept it.
The World Health Organization was only able to send a team of experts to Wuhan – the city where the virus first appeared in December 2019 – in January of this year.
WHO investigators concluded that it was highly unlikely that the Corona virus had leaked from a laboratory, but that hypothesis remained.
Earlier this month, Dr. Tedros outlined the terms of the proposed second phase of the WHO investigation, including conducting audits of scientific research institutes in the area where the virus was first identified.
He called on Beijing to be “transparent, open and cooperative” with investigators and to provide raw patient data that it did not share with investigators in the first stage.
At a press conference, Zheng said he was very surprised by the WHO’s proposal because it focused on alleged violations of laboratory protocols in China.
He said it was “impossible” for China to accept the terms, adding that the country had handed in its recommendations for tracing the origins of the epidemic.
“We hope the WHO will seriously review the research and suggestions made by Chinese experts, treat the origins of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific issue, and get rid of political interference,” Zeng was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Also appearing at the press conference was Euan Zhiming, director of the National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He said that the origin of the virus is natural and stressed that there has been no leakage of viruses or infections among workers inside the facility since its opening in 2018.
It is reported that more than four million people have died since the beginning of the epidemic.
The World Health Organization has faced growing international pressure to investigate the origins of the virus.
Earlier this year, US President Joe Biden ordered US intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the epidemic.