China attempts to shift attention on Covid-19 origins after WHO releases report
Beijing : As the international community continues to raise the credibility and transparency of the report by the World Health Organization on Covid-19 origins, China on Wednesday sought to shift attention away from efforts inside its borders to trace the source of the coronavirus, arguing that health experts should start looking for clues in other countries.
According to The New York Times, Chinese state media outlets rejected criticism from the White House and others that Beijing had not been transparent in the inquiry.
"Maybe it's time for scientists to dig somewhere else and test more hypotheses to solve the mystery," said an article in Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid owned by China's ruling Communist Party.
The Chinese foreign ministry echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement that the investigation into the origins of the virus was a "global mission that should be conducted in multiple countries and localities."
The Ministry said it was "immoral" and "unpopular" to politicize the issue of virus origin tracing after 14 countries, including the United States, raised concerns in a joint statement on the World Health Organization report released Tuesday, following its Wuhan investigation.
"We have repeatedly emphasized that origin tracing is a scientific issue, and it should be carried out cooperatively by global scientists and cannot be politicized, which is also the consensus of most countries," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in a regular briefing Wednesday.
Hua said the joint statement questioning the report is concrete evidence that countries like the US "disrespect science" and "engage in political manipulation."
"Study of origins is a matter of science, which should be jointly conducted by scientists all over the world. To politicize this issue will only severely hinder global cooperation in the study of origins, jeopardize anti-pandemic cooperation, and cost more lives. It would run counter to the international community's aspiration for solidarity against the virus," the Ministry said.
The Ministry further claimed that from January 14 to February 10 this year, Chinese experts and international experts from WHO and ten countries formed a joint team and conducted joint research for 28 days in Wuhan. "The Chinese side offered necessary facilitation for the team's work, fully demonstrating its openness, transparency and responsible attitude," it said.
The 124-page WHO report, by a team of 17 Chinese scientists and 17 global experts, concluded that the coronavirus probably emerged in bats before spreading to humans through an intermediate animal.
NYT further reported that the report said that China lacks the research to indicate how or when the virus began spreading and recommended more detailed studies of the earliest infections and extensive testing of livestock and farmers in China and Southeast Asia.
"Whether Beijing will cooperate in further investigation is unclear. As Chinese news outlets used the WHO report to praise the government, they largely ignored critical comments on Tuesday by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO chief, who acknowledged concerns about China's refusal to share raw data about early Covid-19 cases," according to NYT.
According to the CCP mouthpiece Global Times, an expert said that "those Western countries" only want WHO to pinpoint Wuhan as the origins of the virus, and better prove the virus was leaked from lab; if not, they just launched a smear campaign at China.
In a joint statement, the United States and 13 other governments, including the United Kingdom, Australia and South Korea, expressed concerns over the study's limited access to "complete, original data and samples."
According to CNN, the criticism follows an admission from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, that investigators faced problems during their four-week mission to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in December 2019.
Speaking in the briefing Tuesday, WHO chief Tedros conceded the international experts faced problems with data access in Wuhan. "In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data. I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing," said Tedros, who had previously faced criticism that his agency was too close to China.
However, the US government was much more direct and strongly-worded. "The report lacks crucial data, information and data access -- and represents a partial, incomplete picture," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing, as quoted by CNN.
She said Chinese authorities "have not been transparent, have not provided underlying data -- that certainly does not qualify as cooperation." "[The report] doesn't lead us to any closer of an understanding or greater knowledge than we had six to nine months ago about the origin," she said.
China has been criticised widely across the world for its alleged role in the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected over 128 million people across the world. More than 2.8 million people have succumbed to the plague worldwide, as per the latest data provided by Johns Hopkins University. (ANI)