China will not be participating in the World Health Organization's (WHO) second phase of investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, a top health official announced earlier on Thursday. This came after the world health body included the possibility of the deadly virus leaking from a Wuhan bio lab in the next stage of its inquiry.
Commenting on China's reluctance, White House press secretary Jen Psaki dubbed it as "irresponsible" and "dangerous".
"Their position is irresponsible and frankly dangerous ... It's not a time to be stonewalling," Psaki told reporters. Her statement comes after Beijing strongly criticised a request by the WHO to audit labs in areas where the first coronavirus cases were identified, including the Chinese city of Wuhan.
China also discredited the reports that some of the Wuhan Institute of Virology employees were infected before the virus spread to the central Chinese city and then eventually killing over 40 lakh people, globally.
China will not follow the World Health Organisation's suggested plan on the second phase of COVID-19 origin-tracing, Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), told a media briefing.
"Asking actually China to be transparent, open and cooperate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for at the early days of the pandemic. We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened,” WHO and its Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said.
Ghebreyesus outlined the terms of the inquiry's next phase. This included looking at certain science research institutions. He has now called on China to be more co-operative about the early stages of the outbreak.
The US has been pushing for a probe into the possibility of coronavirus getting leaked from the Wuhan lab since early 2020.
Former US president Donald Trump, who termed the coronavirus as “Wuhan virus”, had demanded a probe into the lab leak theory.
Trump's successor Joe Biden has asked the intelligence community to redouble its efforts to get to the bottom of the origins of the coronavirus, after new reports raised questions whether it spread from the laboratory in Wuhan.