China has come under pressure over renewed call for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus, which pushed the world into an unprecedented health crisis. Now, The World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities.
WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus unveiled the plan to member states on 16 July, a day after saying that investigations were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of the spread of COVID-19 in China.
“We ask China to be transparent and open and to cooperate,” he told a news conference on 15 July. “We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened,” he said.
China has called the theory that the virus may have escaped from a Wuhan laboratory “absurd” and said repeatedly that “politicizing” the issue will hamper investigations. When asked about Tedros’ comments in a briefing, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that some data was unable to be copied or leave China as it involved personal information.
A WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around the central city of Wuhan with Chinese researchers and said in a joint report in March that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal.
In January this year, a WHO team visited China and spent four weeks in and around the central city of Wuhan with Chinese researchers to investigate the origins of COVID but found no evidence that the virus had leaked from the Wuhan lab. In a joint report in March, it aids that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal. However, turned out, that team was not given key data from the initial outbreak.
The call for a fresh look into the origin of COVID started after a series of reports emerged suggesting lab leak theory could not be ruled out.
Tedros who briefed WHO’s 194 member states regarding the proposed second phase of study requires studies of humans, wildlife and animal markets in Wuhan, including the Huanan wholesale market. It would also require “audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019”, Tedros said.
Diplomats said that China, which has resisted a return by international scientists, voiced objections at the closed-door talks saying: “This plan is not a basis for future studies,” news agency Reuters reported.
But countries including the United States and some scientists have demanded further investigation, particularly into the Wuhan Institute of Virology which was conducting research into bats.
“Finding the origins of this virus is a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics. For that to happen, we expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency,” Tedros said.
The G-7 leaders last month in the UK asked for a study by the WHO into the origins of the coronavirus amid raising questions. In its communique, the G7 leaders said, “We call for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase-2 COVID-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.”
On May 26, US President Joe Biden said that he has asked his intelligence department to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information on COVID origin that could bring the country closer to a definitive conclusion.
The origin of coronavirus has remained a mystery even after over a year and a half the first case of infection was reported in the Wuhan city of China in December 2019.