Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was “quite puzzled” by the call for further investigation into the origins of the pandemic and specifically the theory that the virus could have leaked from a Chinese laboratory.
He dismissed the lab leak theory as a rumor that goes against common sense and science.
“It is impossible for us to accept such an origin tracing plan,” he said at a press conference called to address the issue of COVID-19 origins.
The search for the origin of the virus has become a diplomatic issue that has worsened China’s relations with the United States and many of its allies.
The United States and others say China has not been transparent about what happened in the early days of the pandemic.
China accuses critics of politicizing an issue that should be left to scientists.
Dr Tedros said he looked forward to better cooperation and access to data from China, adding that gaining access to the raw data had been a challenge for the team of international experts who traveled to China this year to investigate the cause of the outbreak. .
He also says there was a “premature push” to dismiss the theory that the coronavirus could have escaped from a Chinese government laboratory in Wuhan.
“I was a laboratory technician myself, I am an immunologist and I have worked in the laboratory, and laboratory accidents happen,” said Dr. Tedros.
Dr. Tedros’s words were echoed by German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who urged Chinese officials to allow investigation into the origins of the virus to continue.
Zeng said that the Wuhan lab does not have any viruses that can directly infect humans.
He noted that a WHO-coordinated team of international experts who visited the laboratory earlier this year concluded that a leak in the laboratory was highly unlikely.
The team claimed that the virus likely jumped from animals to humans, with speculation centered that it originated in bats, which may have passed it on to pangolins that were traditionally sold in Chinese wet markets as a delicacy.
The highly politicized debate centers on whether a laboratory leak is so unlikely that the theory should be dismissed as a possibility, or merits further study.
Zeng also said that reports that staff and graduate students from the Wuhan Institute of Virology had fallen ill with the virus and may have passed it on to others were false.
He said China “has always supported scientific virus tracking” and wants that to spread to multiple countries and regions around the world.
“However, we are opposed to politicizing tracing work,” Zeng said.
The second phase of the virus tracing should be based on the findings of the first phase after “full discussion and consultation by member states,” Zeng said.
China has frequently tried to deflect allegations that the pandemic originated in Wuhan and was allowed to spread by early bureaucratic missteps and a cover-up attempt.
Government spokesmen have called for an investigation into whether it could have been produced in a US military laboratory, a theory that is not widespread in the scientific community.
China has largely ended local transmission of the virus through shutdowns, masking requirements and the distribution of more than 1 billion doses of vaccines.
Only 12 new local cases were reported today and the official death toll from the virus in China remains unchanged at 4,636.