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China denounces WHO plan for follow-up research into virus origin

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China denounces WHO plan for follow-up research into virus origin

China is not happy about a plan by the World Health Organization (WHO) to come again to investigate the origin of the coronavirus outbreak. Deputy Health Minister Zeng Yixin made it clear at a press conference that he was unpleasantly surprised by the proposal.

A research team from the WHO, including Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, went to China earlier this year to conduct research in and around the metropolis of Wuhan. They concluded afterwards that the virus probably passed from a bat to another animal and from there to humans.

Earlier this month, the WHO proposed to conduct follow-up research in China. That should also target markets and labs in the area where the virus was first identified at the end of 2019.

The team with Koopmans previously stated that they do not consider it very likely that the virus comes from a lab. Yet the United States, among others, do take that scenario seriously. President Joe Biden has urged his intelligence agencies to sort it out.

In the past, China has already called for the investigation into the origin of the virus not to be “politicized” and backed down on Thursday. A group of prominent Chinese experts stressed in Beijing that the theory that the virus comes from a laboratory is “extremely impossible”.

Researcher Liang Wannian, who has worked with Koopmans’ team, said the lab near Wuhan that has been the focus of attention “never had the virus.” He also said he saw no reason to allocate more resources to investigate this.

Deputy Minister Zeng concluded that the “plan for the second phase of the provenance study contains language that does not respect science or common sense”. He stressed that his country will not participate in such a plan.

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