The World Health Organization’s (WHO) plan for the second phase of its study into the origins of COVID-19 was put forward unilaterally by the WHO Secretariat without receiving the prior approval of all member states. The plan overturned conclusions in the report on the joint WHO-China study, which were science-based and authoritative. The proposal, which represents an unhealthy trend towards politicizing the origins of the novel coronavirus, faces objections from China as well as the international community.
China has always taken an open, transparent, scientific and cooperative attitude on the issue of origin tracing. It believes that the next phase of the study into the virus’ origins should respect the results of the previous round of investigations, relying mainly on scientists, and remaining unperturbed by politics, while efforts should be made to expand research into traceability in various other countries and regions around the world.
Media outlets and scientists from Russia, South Korea and the Philippines have also called for investigations to be carried out in the US in search of the virus’ origins.
China has twice invited WHO experts to China to conduct joint research on the subject of origin tracing, and it has submitted a plan to the WHO for the next phase of origin tracing. According to the plan, the second phase should rely mainly on scientists, and conduct evidence-based scientific research only. The second phase should not repeat work that was already conducted during the first phase, especially where conclusive findings were already reached. The practices, mechanisms and approaches used during the first phase should be drawn on to conduct further studies in an orderly and smooth manner. A team of experts should be selected on the basis of the makeup of the first phase team and their expertise, international reputation and practical experience should be fully respected.
Besides being open and transparent, China has also actively worked to maintain the scientific and fair nature of COVID-19 origin tracing. The origin-tracing work for the novel coronavirus is a scientific issue, and the virus’ transmission from a host animal to humans should and can only be thoroughly researched by scientists, so as to avert future risks and safeguard the health of all human beings.
The Chinese government places a high importance on carrying out scientific studies into origin tracing. By July 19, Chinese research teams and their counterparts from the US and the UK jointly published 225 research papers on origin tracing for COVID-19. The Chinese research teams have released 352 origin-tracing themed papers, and Chinese experts have held six video talks with US experts on pandemic control. China has also actively promoted the sharing of scientific research data and information by building a COVID-19 database which is open to the whole world.
China has also suggested that efforts should be made to advance traceability research in various other countries and regions across the world.
Recently, Professor Ju Liya, a doctor of immunology at the Pasteur Institute in France, said in an exclusive interview that judging from the overall situation of the pandemic, it is an obvious fact that COVID-19 has multiple origins and broke out in multiple places. Research results published in the European Journal of Epidemiology indicated that the novel coronavirus first occurred in Europe as early as November 2019. A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the novel coronavirus was first identified in the US in December 2019. Researchers from the Milan Italian National Institute of Health found that the COVID-19 virus may have been circulating in Italy as early as late summer 2019. These facts have indicated that it is very necessary to carry out virus origin tracing in multiple countries and regions around the world.
The US has been hyping the “lab leak” theory by manipulating international public opinion with the aim of politicizing the origin-tracing process. However, no staff member or postgraduate student at the Wuhan Institute of Virology have been infected with COVID-19. The institute has neither carried out gain-of-function studies into COVID-19 nor has it ever had any so-called man-made viruses. It is a shared belief that, just as the resolution for the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) reiterated, the next phase of virus-tracing should be an open and transparent process and should not be manipulated by certain countries.
China has never rejected cooperation in tracing the origins of COVID-19 but has all along supported and will continue to take part in science-based origin-tracing efforts, said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu. In the meantime, China will continue to act on relevant work recommendations in the report on the joint WHO-China study and actively conduct further follow-up research concerning China as recommended in the report, Ma noted.
“What China opposes is politicizing origin-tracing, or origin-tracing that goes against the WHA resolution and disregards the report on the joint study. What it supports is science-based origin-tracing efforts,” Ma noted.
The findings and recommendations in the report on the WHO-China study are recognized by the international community and the scientific community, and they must be respected and implemented by all parties, including the WHO Secretariat. All future origin tracing should be carried out on the basis of the report, instead of outside of its framework.