China on Tuesday said the World Health Organization's (WHO) proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic showed "disrespect" and "arrogance towards science".
China's vice health minister Zeng Yixin on Thursday said at a press conference that he was "extremely surprised" by the proposal, which he said showed "disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science", AFP reported.
The statement comes on the back of WHO's announcement on Friday, suggesting that a second stage of the international probe, will be conducted to ascertain the origins of the virus. The probe comes after continuously increasing pressure from the United States of America for an investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and ahead of a weekend visit to China by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
The 5 point proposal outlined by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus included "audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019" -- referring to the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The idea that coronavirus may have emerged from a Chinese lab has been long derided as a right-wing conspiracy theory. The lab-leak debate has again started gaining momentum
Beijing has repeatedly insisted that a leak would have been "extremely unlikely", citing the conclusion reached by a joint WHO-Chinese mission to Wuhan in January.
The WHO has now developed a protocol for evaluating laboratory safety and biological security to help ascertain whether the virus may have emerged due to a lab accident, AFP reported.
The protocol, which the agency aims to use to investigate the COVID-19 origin as well as possible future outbreaks, provides measures for evaluating, among other things, the storage of virus samples and handling of waste.