China slams US allegation of stalling international probe into COVID-19 origins
Beijing, Aug 28: With a US intelligence community report failing to determine the origins of the COVID-19, including whether it leaked from a lab, a relieved China has said the allegation by Washington that it stalled international probe and resisted in sharing information about the coronavirus was aimed at politicising and stigmatising the issue of the origin of the deadly virus.
The US intelligence community in its report on Friday concluded that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was "not developed" as a biological weapon, with President Joe Biden reiterating that China continues to reject calls for transparency and withhold information about the origins of the virus.
Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in China, "yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it," Biden said after acknowledging the receipt of the report.
The Director of the US National Intelligence in the report said that COVID-19 probably emerged and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019 with the first known cluster of COVID-19 cases arising in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
However, there was no unanimity among the intelligence community (IC) on the origins of the coronavirus and the intelligence community was split on whether it leaked from a lab in China or emerged in nature.
Despite criticism in the report of China's reluctance to provide key information and blocking a probe, the report is regarded here as a major relief for China as it has failed to pin the blame on Beijing and was much on the same lines as the first probe conducted by WHO experts. Soon after its release in Washington, China said the "report fabricated by the US intelligence community is not scientifically credible”.
“The report by the US intelligence community has not produced an exact answer the US side wants. Continuing such an effort will also be in vain, because its subject is simply non-existent and anti-science,” it said.
“The origin-tracing is a matter of science; it should and can only be left to scientists, not intelligence experts. There has been no lack of 'masterpieces' by the US intelligence community,” official media here quoted a Chinese Embassy statement in Washington as saying.
“The assertion of lack of transparency on the part of China is only an excuse for its politicising and stigmatising campaign. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has taken an open, transparent and responsible attitude,” it said and listed the release of genome sequencing of the virus besides Wuhan authorities releasing the first suspected cases on December 27, 2019.
The virus, which first emerged in Wuhan, has become a global pandemic claiming millions of lives all over the world and creating enormous suffering and huge economic losses as countries have to go on repeated lockdowns to curtail the fast spreading virus. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the deadly virus has so far infected 215,290,716 people and claimed 4,483,136 lives globally.
The US is the worst-hit nation with a total of 38,682,072 infections and 636,565 deaths recorded so far. Referring to the visit of a joint WHO-China team to Wuhan in March this year, which had spent four weeks visiting various places, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China's statement said the experts team had concluded that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal and the leak of the virus from the lab was “extremely unlikely pathway”.
But WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, while receiving the report, said “as far as the WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table” leaving the question hanging in the air again, much to the chagrin of China.
China has been stalling a 2nd WHO experts probe insisting that such an investigation should probe its allegations that the virus has emerged from different parts of the world around the same time while it only reported first. “On origin-tracing, China has followed a science-based, professional, serious and responsible approach. We are the first to cooperate with the WHO on global origin-tracing, and we have invited WHO experts to conduct the investigations twice in China,” the statement said.
“The report by the US intelligence community shows that the US is bent on going down the wrong path of political manipulation,” it said, reiterating that Washington should probe the US bio-lab Fort Detrick located in Maryland. “The US has been shying away from tracing the origin in the United States and closing the door on any such possibility. If the US side is 'transparent and responsible', it should make public and examine the data of its early cases,” it said.
“Isn't it necessary for the US side to invite WHO experts to Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina (UNC) for investigation?” the statement said, alleging that the American bio-lab has long been engaged in coronavirus research and modification. “China always supports and will continue to participate in science-based origin-tracing. What we are against is political manipulation, presumption of guilt and putting blame on others,” it said. “Any Phase II origins study must be a comprehensive extension of Phase I and conducted in multiple places and countries to find out the truth,” it said.