The Slatest

China Declares Itself “Extremely Shocked” at New WHO Proposal to Reexamine Possible Wuhan Lab Leak

A World Health Organization (WHO) sign at the entrance of its headquarters in Geneva.
Finding out how the outbreak began would save lives, help prevent it from happening again. FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

Chinese officials shot down a World Health Organization proposal Thursday that endeavored to reexamine the role of a Wuhan lab in the coronavirus outbreak at the outset of the pandemic. WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus himself laid out the plans to audit the labs in central Wuhan in a private meeting last week, saying he fully expected China to play ball and “support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency.” On Thursday, Chinese officials publicly derided the idea, saying they were shocked and offended it was even being considered. Determining the origin of the virus would give the global community invaluable information on the disease that would save lives, likely shorten the pandemic, and better protect against it happening again.

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Even still, the head of the Chinse National Health Commission Zeng Yixin declared himself “extremely shocked” at the idea. China has repeatedly stonewalled international investigators charged with determining how we got in this mess, refusing to hand over raw data about the coronavirus’s origins, instead presenting its own analysis of the data. Beijing has stomped and stalled throughout the process and when a WHO team finished its four-week investigation on the ground in China earlier this year, the results remained wishy-washy. The WHO team did declare the theory that the virus accidentally leaked from a lab as “extremely unlikely,” while the Chinese government pushed for probes into outlandish origin theories of its own. Two favorites of China state-sponsored media are theories that the virus actually originated elsewhere, one positing that it arrived on frozen food packaging from Japan, and another that the virus was actually the product of the American military and had been circulating in the U.S. for months before it came to China.

The latest refusal is more of the same from China, again showing it doesn’t really have much incentive to dig any deeper other than good will and concern for the general wellbeing of the rest of the world. “I could feel that this plan revealed a lack of respect for common sense and an arrogant attitude toward science,” Zeng said of the latest WHO proposal. “We can’t possibly accept such a plan for investigating the origins.”

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