China rejects need for further WHO coronavirus origins probe

China on Friday rejected the World Health Organization’s calls for a renewed probe into the origins of Covid-19, saying it supported “scientific” over “political” efforts to find out how the virus started. More than 4.3 million people across the world have died since the first cases were identified in Wuhan in late 2019.

“We oppose political tracing… and abandoning the joint report” issued after a WHO expert team visited Wuhan in January, vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu told reporters. “We support scientific tracing.” A WHO team of international experts went to Wuhan in January 2021 to produce a first phase report, which was written in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts. It failed to find a conclusive position on how the virus began. On Thursday the WHO urged China to share raw data from the earliest Covid-19 cases to revive its probe into the origins of the disease. China hit back, repeating its position that the initial investigation was enough and that calls for further data were motivated by politics instead of scientific inquiry. The report, which was carried out jointly with Chinese scientists, prompted renewed calls for a deeper probe into the virus’s origins and for China to be more transparent with its data on the virus. Last month, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus proposed a second stage of the investigation to include further studies in China as well as laboratory “audits”.