China’s opposition to audit of labs dangerous, says White House

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“Their position is irresponsible and frankly dangerous … It’s not a time to be stonewalling,” Psaki told reporters during a press briefing….reports Asian Lite News

China’s opposition to the second phase of the probe into the origins of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is “irresponsible” and “dangerous”, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday. China has rejected the plan proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which includes the audit of laboratories in areas where the first cases of Covid-19 were identified.

“Their position is irresponsible and frankly dangerous … It’s not a time to be stonewalling,” Psaki told reporters during a press briefing.

The UN health agency’s proposal marked a change in its stance on the lab leak theory which it had earlier dismissed as “extremely unlikely”. An international team of experts had visited Wuhan in January this year to investigate the origins of Sars-Cov-2 and published a report in March.

The report identified two most likely scenarios of coronavirus transmission to the human population, including the one involving intermediary host species. On the lab theory, which had been floating around since the start of the pandemic, the report said that the hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population.

Last week, however, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the push to discount the lab leak theory was “premature.” Acknowledging the possibility of virus leak, Tedros said, “I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen. It’s common.”

The WHO chief asked Beijing to be more transparent as scientists search for the origins of the coronavirus, triggering an angry response from China. China’s national health commission (NHC) vice minister Zeng Yixin said he was “shocked” by the proposal as it contains language that does not respect science, adding that China opposes politicising the study into the origin of the virus.

Meanwhile, China on Thursday accused the World Health Organisation of “arrogance” and a “disrespect for common sense” as it proposed a second phase investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, media reports said.

The WHO had, in March, concluded in a report that a laboratory leak was “extremely unlikely”. Undermining the report, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, last week, stated that it was premature on the global health body’s part to rule out a potential link between the Covid pandemic and a laboratory leak. He asked China to be more transparent on the issue of data sharing.

In response, National Health Commission Deputy Minister Zeng Yixin stated that “clear conclusions from the first study should not be repeatedly investigated”, the South China Morning Post reported.

Zeng’s comments follow the WHO circular to its member states detailing its proposed next steps to advance the second phase of its efforts to trace the origin of the pandemic, which includes audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan.

“No way” Beijing can accept origin tracing study proposal which includes possible breach of laboratory protocols, he said, according to the Post.

The proposed study “places the hypothesis that ‘China’s breach of laboratory protocols caused the virus to leak’ as one of the research priorities,” Zeng was quoted as saying.

Moreover, none of the staff or postgraduates at the infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology had been infected with the new coronavirus, he stated. There has also been no gain-of-function studies, referring to suggestions its research had made natural bat coronaviruses more infectious among humans, he added.

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