China on Thursday said a WHO proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic showed “disrespect” and “arrogance towards science”.
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Last week, the World Health Organization said a second stage of the international probe should include audits of Chinese labs, amid increasing pressure from the United States for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan.
The proposal outlined by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus included “audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019” — referring to the Chinese city of Wuhan.
But China’s vice health minister Zeng Yixin told reporters Thursday that he was “extremely surprised” by the plan, which he said showed “disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science”.
Long derided as a right-wing conspiracy theory and vehemently rejected by Beijing, the idea that Covid-19 may have emerged from a lab leak has been gaining momentum.
Beijing has repeatedly insisted that a leak would have been “extremely unlikely”, citing the conclusion reached by a joint WHO-Chinese mission to Wuhan in January.
At the same time, Chinese officials and state media have pushed an alternate theory that the virus could have escaped from the US military research lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
Nationalist tabloid Global Times said it had collected five million signatures from Chinese web users on a petition to investigate the US lab.
Top officials have also amplified theories that the virus may have been imported with frozen food
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