China Wants World Health Organization to Launch Coronavirus Origin Probe in America

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning gestures during a press conference at the M
AP Photo/Liu Zheng

China is calling for the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) to launch an investigation into whether or not the coronavirus pandemic began in America, the state-run propaganda outlet China Daily reported on Tuesday.

In an article titled “China Calls for [coronavirus] Origins Tracing in U.S.,” China Daily detailed comments on Monday by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning in response to the W.H.O. urging state actors to share any relevant information with the United Nations agency that could help it understand where the novel coronavirus came from and when it first started to infect people.

The first known cases of humans infected with the novel coronavirus were documented in central Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Chinese government data obtained by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post in 2020 identified the first confirmed infection to have been documented in Hubei, the province where Wuhan serves as a regional capital, on November 17, 2019. No evidence exists in the public sphere of any cases of Wuhan coronavirus infections confirmed prior to that case.

Despite this, the official stance of the Chinese government is that the pandemic began as a result of a laboratory leak at a U.S. Army facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Chinese officials have repeatedly accused American doctors of covering up early cases of coronavirus infection by diagnosing them as lung diseases associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping.

The Chinese officials — typically diplomats with no medical background — advancing this conspiracy theory have yet to explain how such a false diagnosis would be possible given the highly contagious nature of the Wuhan coronavirus. No evidence exists of anyone diagnosed with a lung injury infecting someone else with their injury and no evidence suggests that health workers treating individuals diagnosed with lung injuries used quarantine or containment protocols to treat those patients.

Chinese officials simultaneously maintain that the virus began spreading as a result of a laboratory leak in Maryland and insist it is impossible for the pandemic to have resulted from a laboratory leak, the latter its talking point in response to widespread suspicions that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), an institution known to have been studying bat coronaviruses in 2019.

In her remarks on Monday, Mao was responding to comments by W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday in which he asked China, specifically, to be more transparent about what its health officials knew about the virus in the early days of the pandemic.

“W.H.O. continues to call for China to be transparent in sharing data and to conduct the necessary investigations and share the results,” Tedros said during a press conference last week, insisting that “all hypotheses on the origins of the virus remain on the table” in part due to China’s obfuscation of critical information.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Tedros asked more generally, “if any country has information about the origins of the pandemic, it is essential for that information to be shared with W.H.O. and the international scientific community.”

He also asserted that his agency had “not abandoned any plans to identify the origins of the [Wuhan coronavirus] pandemic,” contradicting remarks last month by top W.H.O. epidemiologist Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, who lamented that “there is no Phase 2” of the investigation into the virus’s origins.

“Phase 1” was a poorly received report, following a highly regime-controlled W.H.O. visit to Wuhan, published in 2021 and finding that a laboratory leak was “unlikely” to have caused the pandemic. The report concluded the likeliest route to human infection was a third-party animal becoming infected from contact with the origin species, then transmitting the virus to humans. The report did not find, however, a single animal testing positive for the virus in the wild in Hubei province, despite testing 80,000 specimens.

Tedros himself lamented the report as insufficient shortly after its publication.

Mao claimed during her press conference on Monday that “China, which has twice received WHO experts for origins tracing cooperation since the pandemic broke out, has shared more data and research findings than any other country.”

China Daily noted both that the W.H.O. Wuhan report considered a laboratory leak triggering the pandemic “extremely unlikely,” and that Mao demanded an investigation into a potential laboratory leak in Maryland.

“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,” Mao said, according to a transcript of the press briefing published by the Foreign Ministry. “Instead, it has turned a blind eye to the world’s concerns about US bio-military bases at Fort Detrick and around the world.”

“We once again urge the US side to immediately stop political manipulation on this issue, respond to the world’s legitimate concerns soon,” she concluded, “voluntarily share the data of suspected early cases in the US with the W.H.O., disclose information about its bio-labs at Fort Detrick and around the world, and give people of the world the truth they deserve.”

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