- Says Covid-19 origin tracing is a scientific issue and should not be politicised
China hopes that the World Health Organization (WHO) will consider the Covid-19 origin-tracing work as a scientific issue, sideline political interference, and promote tracing work in different countries and regions across the world, said the State Council Information Office (SCIO) in a press conference last week.
The press conference was held on July 22 in Beijing to share China's view on the Covid-19 origin tracing.
Zeng Yixin, deputy head of China's National Health Commission (NHC), said he was shocked over the news that a WHO proposed plan has "listed the hypothesis that China's breach of laboratory protocols caused the virus to leak as one of the research priorities."
"From this point, I can feel that the plan showed disrespect for common sense and arrogance toward science," he said, adding that It is "impossible for us to accept a plan like this."
So far, none of the staff or post-graduate students at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) have ever contracted SARS-CoV-2, nor has the WIV conducted any gain-of-function research on coronaviruses. There is no so-called man-made virus there, he reiterated.
Then how could it happen that the virus leaked from the laboratory due to violations of lab procedures? he questioned, adding that "What was done in the first stage of origin tracing, especially by those that have reached a clear conclusion."
"The Covid-19 origin tracing is definitely a scientific issue. The Chinese government has long supported the science-based investigation of the Covid-19 origins but opposes politicizing the issue," he noted.
What should be carried out is the origin tracing of early cases, molecular epidemiology, and intermediary hosts in multiple countries and regions based on extensive consultations among WHO members, he recommended.
According to Xu Nanping, vice-minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Chinese scientists had issued 225 papers on Covid-19 origin tracing in cooperation with research teams from the US, the UK, and other countries, and 352 papers had been released by domestic research teams. Besides, Chinese and US medical experts had convened six video conferences on epidemic prevention and control.
According to Xu, the Covid-19 information database established by China National Center for Bioinformation has collected and shared 2.53 million genome sequences, providing services for nearly 300,000 users in 177 countries and regions around the world.
Wang Chen, president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, said at the conference that cold chains remained an important transmission channel amid the epidemic, and the evidence chain of transmissions by cold chains is relatively substantial.
Liang Wannian, the team leader from the Chinese side of the WHO-China team studying the origins of Covid-19, said that the need for a wide-ranging investigation worldwide is becoming stronger, as more evidence pointing to earlier infections outside China has surfaced recently.
"These examples show that Wuhan may not be the ground zero for virus spillover," Liang said, adding that the virus may have undergone a complicated transmission cycle between animals, humans, and objects.
The forum concluded that If any country wants to further analyze origin tracking on laboratory-related sources, Chinese experts suggest going to places with labs similar to the one in Wuhan.