Beijing expressed surprise and outrage on Thursday at a World Health Organization proposal to look into whether the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan laboratory, exposing a widening divide in the international community over the investigation into the origins of the pandemic.
After the World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, laid out plans to examine laboratories in the central city of Wuhan, where the first cases of Covid-19 appeared in late 2019, senior Chinese health and science officials reacted angrily to the idea of opening the Wuhan Institute of Virology to renewed investigation.
Vice Minister Zeng Yixin of the Chinese National Health Commission said at a news conference in Beijing that he was “extremely shocked” by the World Health Organization’s plan to refocus attention on the possibility that the virus had leaked from a Wuhan lab.
In Mr. Zeng’s words, “I had the impression that this plan demonstrated a lack of respect for common sense as well as an arrogant attitude toward science.” “We can’t possibly accept such a plan for investigating the origins,” says the committee chairman.
According to a report released in March, a joint investigation by the World Health Organization and China concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” that the coronavirus had escaped from a Wuhan laboratory. The virus, according to many scientists, most likely spread from animals to humans through natural spillover in a market or other similar setting.
Some scientists, however, believe that the initial investigation was premature in dismissing the possibility of a lab leak. The United States and other governments have pressed China to share more information, particularly information from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and China has complied.
Several Chinese officials stated at a news conference on Thursday that the World Health Organization’s investigation was thorough and that there was no evidence to warrant additional inspections of the labs. They suggested that the World Health Organization’s investigators should instead concentrate their efforts on looking for signs of natural transmission and the possibility that the virus may have first spread outside of China.
An official from the Chinese foreign ministry, as well as Global Times, a news outlet controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, have gone even further in their opposition to the demands placed on Beijing in recent days. They have repeated claims that the coronavirus may have escaped from a military laboratory in the United States, which have been widely dismissed by scientists. Approximately six million signatures have been collected on a petition organised by Global Times calling for an investigation into the American facility, according to the petition’s creator.