Coronavirus: China rejects WHO proposal to probe lab leak theory
In its strongest pushback against the "lab leak" theory concerning coronavirus' origins, China has rejected a proposal by the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate the matter. The WHO had proposed that an expert team probing the origins of the virus SARS-CoV-2 should return to the sites in China where it was first reported. These include Wuhan city, where cases first emerged in late-2019.
A group of China's top science officials addressed a briefing in Beijing on Thursday. They said there is no evidence supporting the theory that SARS-CoV-2 leaked from a lab, adding that it defies common sense. Wuhan Institute of Virology's lab "never had the virus," said one of the officials, adding, "There's no need for us to put more resources into a lab leak probe."
The laboratory at the heart of the controversy studied bat-borne pathogens and other coronaviruses. Meanwhile, the Chinese officials had praised a previous WHO report that deemed the lab leak theory "extremely unlikely." That report had pointed mainly to animals as origin of the virus.
However, last week, the WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it would be "premature" to rule out the link between the virus and laboratory leak. He alleged that China didn't share this data with the WHO team during the first investigation and called for clear information on Wuhan's laboratory. "I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen. It's common," he said.
The lab leak hypothesis was once dismissed as a conspiracy theory by former US President Donald Trump's opponents. However, China's reluctance to cooperate with probes led to many questioning the country's motives, further fuelling global calls for a deeper probe. This May, US President Joe Biden asked intelligence to probe the possibility of the hypothesis. The Australian government has also called for Beijing's cooperation.