WHO urges collaboration on COVID-19 origin after China rejects inquiry plan

A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb 6, 2020.

GENEVA: The World Health Organization (WHO) called on Friday (Jul 23) for all countries to work together to investigate the origins of the coronavirus that caused COVID-19, a day after China rejected plans for more checks on labs and markets in its territory.

The first human cases of COVID-19 were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. China has repeatedly dismissed theories that the virus leaked from one of its laboratories.

The WHO this month proposed a follow-up to earlier investigations in China. But Zeng Yixin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, said on Thursday Beijing would not accept the proposal as it stood.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the investigation was hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there.

Countries including the United States and some scientists have demanded further investigation, particularly into the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was conducting research into bats.

Diplomats said that China immediately signalled opposition to the plan presented by Tedros at closed-door talks with member states a week ago.

“The Chinese see it as a repudiation of the joint report,” said one.

Tedros also said last week he was establishing a permanent International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens to help advance the next phase of studies into the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

The panel, to be composed of independent experts, is aimed at helping to ease some political pressure on the WHO, diplomats said.

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