New Delhi: China said on Thursday that it has shared all data and analyses with the experts of the World Health Organization (WHO) tracing the origin of Covid-19, and it is ready to continue working with global experts to jointly study and analyse the data.
The joint study group of WHO and China to trace the origin of Covid-19 released a report two days ago, in which it flagged that more data will be made available to the investigators by Beijing.
A day after the report was released, India had demanded a comprehensive and expert-led mechanism to expeditiously investigate the origin of coronavirus. The US, the UK and several other countries have also voiced their concerns over the findings.
Reacting to India’s demand, China said that they had twice invited WHO experts for the study of the origin of Covid-19 and offered necessary facilitation for the team’s work, fully demonstrating its openness, transparency and responsible attitude.
China further said that the joint study group tracing the origin of Covid-19 has unanimously agreed that the allegation of a ‘lab leak’ is extremely unlikely.
The experts of the joint mission made field trips to several institutions, including the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, besides visiting the biosafety laboratories, and had in-depth and candid exchanges with the experts there.
“Members of the mission unanimously agreed that the allegation of lab leaking is extremely unlikely, and this is an important scientific conclusion made clear in the joint study report released this time,” said the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy.
The spokesperson also said that as for the question of further research, the experts of the WHO mission said that there has always been speculation about lab leak, and work could be done with laboratories around the world if there is further evidence that the hypothesis needs to be reassessed.
The experts also said that the virus may have been spread in places other than China early on, and a global perspective is needed to carry out the origin-tracing work.
“The report also proposes multiple tasks to be conducted worldwide. We hope relevant countries can cooperate with the WHO expert mission in an open, transparent and responsible manner like China did,” the spokesperson said.
As for the issue on accessing raw data, after China and WHO agreed on the terms of reference in July last year, China carried out data collection, collation and analysis in accordance with the suggestions of the foreign experts.
The Chinese authorities gathered relevant institutions and several hundred scientists to collect, collate data and conduct initial analysis, and presented item by item raw data of particular concern to the WHO experts.
The international experts have also said on many occasions that they had full and candid discussions with the Chinese side with regard to data issues.
As the medical files contain a large amount of information which concern personal privacy, the relevant data are not allowed by the law to be copied or taken abroad, which is a common practice in many countries. The international experts said they completely understand the situation, the spokesperson said.
Going forward, China stands ready to continue working with international experts to jointly study and analyse the data.
The spokesperson further pointed out that the study of origins is a matter of science.
To politicise this issue will only severely hinder global cooperation in study of origins, jeopardise anti-pandemic cooperation, and cost more lives.
It would run counter to the international community’s aspiration for solidarity against the virus.
“Study of origins is also a global mission that should be conducted in multiple countries and localities. We believe the joint WHO-China study will effectively stimulate global cooperation in origin-tracing,” the spokesperson said.
By Sumit Kumar Singh