China: Questioning W.H.O. Report on Coronavirus Is ‘Blasphemy’

BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 31: Head of the Expert Group on Covid Response at China's National Health Commission Liang Wannian (C) answers a question during a press conference at the National Health Committee on March 31, 2021 in Beijing, China. The Chinese COVID-19 response team held a press conference to …
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China’s top epidemiologist on Wednesday dismissed doubts over the validity of the World Health Organization’s (W.H.O.) new report on the origins of the Chinese coronavirus as “blasphemy.”

“[T]he report was compiled by scientists who carried out a real investigation in Wuhan, and if anyone for purely political purposes throws mud at this report, it will be pathetic, and ‘even a blasphemy for science,’” Zeng Guang, the chief epidemiologist for China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The W.H.O. published a report on the origins of the Chinese coronavirus on March 30. The study was based on data compiled by a joint W.H.O.-China expert team from January 14-February 10 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first known cases of the disease emerged in December 2019, according to the Chinese government.

A group of 14 countries including the United States released a joint statement on Tuesday raising concerns over the origins report. The team assigned to conduct the study was “significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples,” according to the statement.

“It is … essential that we voice our shared concerns that the international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus [which causes the Covid-19 disease, i.e. Chinese coronavirus] was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples,”  the statement further read. “Scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.”

The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Israel, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Japan, and the Republic of Korea joined the U.S. in cosigning the statement.

“Why are those people, who did not even come to investigate in China, barking outside the wall? I don’t feel like they are speaking for real science on this matter,” Zeng told the Global Times on Wednesday, referring to the joint statement’s cosigners.

The joint statement echoed remarks by W.H.O. Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier on Tuesday in which he expressed frustration over the research team’s lack of access to raw data.

“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,” Tedros said at a press conference announcing the origin report’s release.

“We have already shared all the available data with the foreign experts, with full analysis … what the W.H.O. official raised as an issue is about whether the foreign experts could copy that original data and take it away, which involves privacy and relevant laws in China,” a “senior expert close to the joint [W.H.O.-China] team” told the Global Times on Wednesday.


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