Beijing — China on Friday rejected the World Health Organization’s calls for a renewed probe into the origins of COVID-19, saying it supported “scientific” over “political” efforts to find out how the virus started.
Pressure is again mounting on Beijing to consider a fresh probe into the origins of a pandemic that’s killed more than four million people since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
A delayed and heavily politicized WHO team of international experts went to Wuhan in January 2021 to produce a first phase report, which was written in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts. It failed to conclude how the virus began.
On Thursday the WHO urged China to share raw data from the earliest COVID-19 cases to revive its probe into the origins of the disease.
China hit back, repeating its position that the initial investigation was enough and that calls for further data were motivated by politics instead of scientific inquiry.
“We oppose political tracing … and abandoning the joint report” issued after the WHO expert team’s Wuhan visit in January, vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu told reporters. “We support scientific tracing.”
That report said the virus jumping from bats to humans via an intermediate animal was the most probable scenario, while a leak from Wuhan’s virology labs was “extremely unlikely”.
Ma rejected suggestions of new lines of investigation.
“The conclusions and recommendations of WHO and China joint report were recogniZed by the international community and the scientific community,” he said.
“Future global traceability work should and can only be further carried out on the basis of this report, rather than starting a new one.”
The rejection came on the same day China said more than half its 1.4 billion people had been fully vaccinated.
The Reuters news agency reports the National Health Commission put the number of vaccinated at more than 777 million.
China is the world’s most populous nation.