China has hit back at a World Health Organisation proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of the continuing investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic – showed “disrespect” and “arrogance towards science.”
Last week, the UN health body said a second stage of the international probe should include a thorough assessment of Chinese labs, after increasing pressure from the United States for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan.
The proposal outlined by the WHO included “audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019” – referring to the Chinese city of Wuhan. But China’s vice health minister Zeng Yixin told reporters this morning that he was “extremely surprised” by the plan, which he said showed “disrespect for common sense – and arrogance towards science”.
Long considered as a right-wing conspiracy theory, but vehemently rejected by Beijing, the idea that Covid-19 may have emerged from a lab leak has been gaining momentum. Beijing has repeatedly insisted that a leak would have been “extremely unlikely”, citing the conclusion reached by a joint WHO-Chinese mission to Wuhan in January.
But in a tit-for-tat move, Chinese officials and state media have pushed an alternative theory that the virus could have escaped from the US military research lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland. China’s nationalist tabloid Global Times said it had collected five million signatures from Chinese web users on a petition to investigate the US lab.
The UN health agency has been under intensifying pressure for a new, more in-depth investigation of how the disease first emerged… to date killing more than 4-million people worldwide. The WHO was only able to send a team of independent, international experts to Wuhan in January, more than a year after the first Covid cases surfaced there.