China Calls on WHO to Respect Scientists’ Covid Origin Findings

China called on the World Health Organization to take the lead in respecting the conclusions of scientists, a day after the international organization’s director-general faulted the findings of a mission to study the origins of Covid-19 in China.

“We need to respect science and respect the opinions and the conclusions reached by scientists,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing in Beijing on Wednesday. “The WHO should play a leading role.”

In a separate briefing, Chinese scientists working alongside the 17 international experts assembled by the WHO for the mission to Wuhan also defended the thoroughness of their findings and conclusion. Liang Wannian, an epidemiologist who headed the team of Chinese experts working with the WHO, said the merit of the report should be judged by scientists.

China’s comments came a day after the release of the long-awaited study into the origins of Covid-19. The report, written after four weeks of investigative work in the mainland city of Wuhan, drew widespread criticism from countries including the U.S., which called it incomplete and overly controlled by China.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus unexpectedly also critiqued the report, saying it hadn’t sufficiently examined the controversial hypothesis that the virus could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology -- where researchers have been studying different coronaviruses, including ones with similarities to SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.

“I’m not sure how he understands the issue,” Liang said of Tedros’s comments. “Whether the examination was sufficient or not should be judged by scientists and history.”

The coronavirus probably spread from bats to humans via another animal, according to the WHO-China study. The most productive research would be to look for such an animal link, it said.

Peter Ben Embarek, co-leader of the WHO investigation trip to Wuhan, has said that the lab hypothesis -- which was promoted by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration -- wasn’t the main focus of the investigation and so didn’t receive the same depth of attention and work as other theories. The team didn’t do a full investigation of the labs, he said.

Hua, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, also pushed back at claims that Beijing had meddled and pressured scientists involved in the study and blocked them from having full access to data.

“They want to spread rumors and push their hidden political agenda,” she said. The experts “said they went to places they wanted to and they met with people they wanted to.”

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