China cannot accept the World Health Organization's plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19, a senior Chinese health official said Thursday. Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was “rather taken aback" by the call for a further investigation into the pandemic's origins and, specifically, the theory that the virus might have leaked from a Chinese lab. He dismissed the lab-leak theory as a rumor that runs counter to common sense and science, the AP reports. “It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” he said at a news conference called to address the COVID-19 origins issue. Zeng said the Wuhan lab has no virus that can directly infect humans. He noted that a WHO-coordinated team of international experts who visited the lab earlier this year concluded that a lab leak was highly unlikely.
Zeng also said reports that staff and graduate students at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had become sick with the virus and might have transmitted it to others were untrue. He said China has “always supported scientific virus tracing," and wants to see that extended to multiple countries and regions worldwide. “However, we are opposed to politicizing the tracing work," Zeng said. The second phase of virus tracing should be based on the conclusions of the first phase after “full discussion and consultation by member states," Zeng said. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, acknowledged last week that it was premature to rule out a potential link between the pandemic and a leak from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan, the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019. Tedros said he hoped for better cooperation and access to data from China.