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China says WHO’s Covid origins probe is playing politics

Officials continue to reject plan for WHO investigation, saying it has “lost scientific principles”

China has accused the latest international probe into the origins of the Covid-19 virus of being distorted by politics and ignoring important avenues of research, as a bitter row over the investigation continues.

The latest escalation in rhetoric over the second phase of the World Health Organization Covid-19 origins study comes in the wake of the international science community pushing China to rethink its decision to remove itself from the investigation. On 27 July, figures including EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel, US chief science adviser Eric Lander, Australian chief scientist Cathy Foley and three advisers to the Japanese government—Ueyama Takahiro, Matsumoto Yoichiro and Kano Mitsunobu—said Chinese participation was “a matter of critical importance to the world”.

But on 1 August a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy said the work plan for the WHO study was “was heavily disrupted by politicisation and was a document that lost scientific principles and lacked a spirit of cooperation”. A “lack of transparency in the drafting process also added to the suspicion that the work plan is the product of political manipulation”, they added.

China has angrily dismissed suggestions that the Covid-19 virus could have leaked from a lab in Wuhan, even as they have gained traction among some politicians, notably in the United States. The spokesperson expressed anger that the WHO was keeping open this line of inquiry and said the work plan “deliberately ignores important research directions”.