China on Friday said a second probe into the origins of COVID-19 proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) is “not based on the scientific evidence gathered from the first phase.”
“Without making reference to scientific conclusions and suggestions from the WHO-China joint report on coronavirus origins, (the WHO Secretariat) came up with the working proposal for the next phase without fully consulting with its member countries, which has been rejected and doubted,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu told an indoor briefing with 31 representatives and ambassadors from 29 countries in Beijing.
Ma, however, said: “China supports the next-phase work but always rejects politicization of the issue, and the future work should be led by the WHO and its members,” according to the Chinese daily Global Times.
Last month, the WHO proposed the second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus, including inspection of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, from where the first cases of the virus were reported in December 2019.
The proposal came after a push by Western states after the WHO-China joint international research team released its report in February following a visit to China for more than 10 days in search of the virus origins.
Dr. Peter Ben Embarek from the WHO team had said the evidence also pointed to a natural reservoir of the virus, i.e., bat population.
“But since Wuhan is not (located) near the bat habitation, thus a direct jump of this virus to Wuhan is highly unlikely,” he said after the first probe into the virus origins.
“How the virus entered the market is yet to be known. The host is yet to be identified.”
The Chinese vice foreign minister said: “The next phase of COVID-19 origins-tracing work should be only done by scientists to find zoonotic origins and transmission pathways.”
“As the WHO-China joint report is widely recognized, this is the basis on which future work should be carried out,” Ma said.
“Over 70 countries have sent letters or issued statements to the WHO in support of the WHO-China joint report, opposing politicizing origins-tracing work, and more than 30 countries clearly expressed their stances of opposition or reserved opinion on the work proposal for the next stage origins tracing,” he added.