“Not scientific”: China’s government rejects WHO plan for COVID origins study

A top Chinese health official said the government doesn’t accept World Health Organization plans for a follow-up investigation into COVID-19’s origins and called theories of a laboratory leak a “rumor,” per AP.

Why it matters: National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin’s comments come days after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “too early” to rule out a potential connection between the pandemic and and a leak from a lab.

What they’re saying: Zeng said he was “surprised” by a WHO proposal to revisit Wuhan, the first epicenter of the coronavirus, which a group of researchers from the health body visited in January — labeling the plan “not scientific,” Al Jazeera reports.

Driving the news: Tedros said last week that uncovering its origins was “a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics,” according to Reuters.

“For that to happen, we expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency,” he said.

The big picture: The debate over the origins of the coronavirus has gained traction in recent months following previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill enough to be hospitalized in November 2019, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal in May.

The U.S. and other countries, along with some scientists, have demanded a follow-up investigation by the WHO, and President Biden said in May he had asked the American intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” to investigate the virus’ origins.

Go deeper: Why we need to know COVID’s origins

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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