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7 Mar, 2023 04:00

China presses for Covid origins probe in US

Washington has ignored concerns over its “bio-military bases” both at home and abroad, Beijing said
China presses for Covid origins probe in US

The World Health Organization (WHO) should launch a new investigation into the origins of Covid-19 in the United States, China has said, rejecting charges by Washington that the deadly pathogen escaped from a high-security virology lab in Wuhan.

Asked about recent comments by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – who called on China and other nations to be “transparent in sharing data” regarding the genesis of the health crisis – Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning insisted Beijing has “shared more data and research findings than any other country and contributed the most on origins-tracing.”

“Tracing the origins of the virus is a matter of science. This study should be and can only be conducted jointly by scientists around the world,” Mao told reporters on Monday, adding that the US government has only hampered those efforts by “politicizing, weaponizing and instrumentalizing the issue.”

We hope the WHO Secretariat will take a science-based, objective and just position, not let politicization get in the way, and carry out the origins-tracing study in the US, among other countries, and play a positive role in science-based global origins-tracing. 

Mao’s remarks came days after FBI Director Christopher Wray claimed the virus “most likely” originated in a leak from a Chinese lab in comments to Fox News, citing a bureau assessment that has not been made public. The Department of Energy has also reportedly altered its stance on the matter, recently endorsing the lab-leak theory, though only with “low confidence.” 

The Foreign Ministry spokesperson accused Washington of “spreading myths” without “supporting evidence,” saying the allegations have only “poisoned the atmosphere for science-based global origins-tracing.” She noted the WHO had already visited China on two occasions to probe the issue and concluded the leak hypothesis was “extremely unlikely,” but said no similar investigation had been carried out in the US. 

“The US, however, ignored these science-based conclusions and recommendations and kept pressurizing WHO into repeatedly demanding origins-tracing in China. It is quite clear what the US is trying to achieve,” Mao continued. “While claiming to take origins-tracing seriously, the US has never invited WHO expert groups to the US for joint study, or shared any early data. Instead, it has turned a blind eye to the world’s concerns about US bio-military bases at Fort Detrick and around the world.”

Beijing has repeatedly sounded alarms over military sites including Fort Detrick in Maryland, which houses the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) – the Pentagon’s primary bioweapons research program. Claiming the base engages in “illegal, non-transparent and unsafe practices,” Chinese officials have suggested Fort Detrick could have some link to the Covid-19 outbreak, though little evidence has emerged to support the charge.