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China Rejects WHO Plan for Second Phase of COVID Origin Probe

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Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of the National Health Commission and head of the Vaccine R & D speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 vaccination, in Beijing, China, December 19, 2020. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

A top Chinese official rejected the World Health Organization’s proposal for a second phase of an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, in comments to reporters on Thursday.

“We cannot accept this kind of plan for origin-tracing,” Zeng Yixin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, said in comments translated by the Wall Street Journal. Parts of the proposal “did not respect common sense and violated science.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus presented the proposal to member states last week, and called on China to cooperate with the investigation.

“As you know we will need cooperation from the Chinese side,” Tedros said at the time. “We need transparency to understand or know or find the origin of this virus.”

Tedros’s call for a renewed investigation comes after the hypothesis that the novel coronavirus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan has gained renewed scrutiny.

Zeng noted on Thursday that an investigation by scientists appointed by China and the WHO earlier this year concluded that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.” However, after WHO scientists finished their report, Tedros called for “further investigation” into the lab-leak hypothesis.

Tedros repeated the call for an additional probe at a press conference last week, saying there was a “premature push” to dismiss the lab-leak hypothesis.

“I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen,” Tedros told reporters.

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