China rejects WHO’s call for transparency in COVID-19 origin probe

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China is rejecting the World Health Organization’s calls for transparency and cooperation as the agency plans to continue its probe into the origins of the pandemic — instead demanding that the organization dismiss the lab leak theory as a rumor.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was “rather taken aback” by the investigation, arguing that the idea that COVID-19 may have escaped from a Wuhan lab ran counter to common sense and science.

“It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” the senior Chinese health official said.

Zeng’s comments came after the WHO last week presented its proposal for a second phase of its probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 4 million people worldwide.

At the time, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke out for the first time in a critical manner of China’s behavior regarding the virus — a rarity for the agency leader.

Tedros told reporters that the health agency was “asking actually China to be transparent, open and cooperate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for at the early days of the pandemic.”

He also admitted that there had been “a premature push” to rule out the lab leak theory, a contradiction of his own statements in February following a WHO mission to China that concluded that it was “extremely unlikely.”

“I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen,” he said. “It’s common.”

In May, President Biden ordered US spy agencies to conduct a 90-day investigation into whether the virus that causes COVID-19 was released by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In a statement, Biden said two US spy agencies lean toward a theory that the virus emerged naturally from animals. One US spy agency leans toward the lab-release theory.

The White House said in May it wasn’t ruling out any possibilities, including the deliberate release of the virus.

Biden’s abrupt pivot to recognizing the possibility of a lab leak followed weeks of his administration deferring to the World Health Organization for answers.

President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the WHO, arguing the agency was beholden to China and failed to warn the world about COVID-19 by credulously accepting false Chinese data. Biden unconditionally rejoined the WHO.

The lab leak theory gained traction this year after the Wall Street Journal reported that three employees at the Wuhan lab were hospitalized in November 2019 — just before the outbreak spread.

With Post wires

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