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Chinese health officials defend Covid virus research, out against WHO

Chinese health officials have defended their search for its source The covid-19 virus And attacked the World Health Organization on Saturday after its leader said Beijing should have shared genetic information earlier.

Shen Hongbing, director of China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the WHO’s comments were “offensive and disrespectful”. He accused the WHO of “trying to deceive China” and said it must avoid helping others “politicize Covid-19”.

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on March 17 that the newly released genetic material gathered in Wuhan, central China, where the first case was detected in late 2019, “should have been shared three years ago.”

“As a responsible country and as scientists, we have always actively shared research findings with scientists around the world,” Shen told a news conference.

The origins of Covid-19 are still debated and the focus of bitter political disputes.

Many scientists believe it jumped from animals to humans at a market in Wuhan, but the city also houses China’s top facility for collecting the virus. It suggested that COVID-19 may have leaked from one person.

The ruling Communist Party has tried to deflect criticism of its handling of the outbreak by spreading uncertainty about its origins.

Officials have repeated anti-US conspiracy theories that the virus was created by Washington and smuggled into China. The government also said the virus could have entered China in mail or food shipments, although scientists abroad have seen no evidence to support this.

Chinese officials suppressed data on the Wuhan outbreak in 2019 and punished a doctor who warned others about the new disease. The ruling party reversed course in early 2020 and cut off access to major cities and most international travel to contain the disease.

Last day of the DC Covid Center

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Kim Woo holds her daughter, 2, as she holds up Covid-19 self-testing kits as they watch a program on a cell phone outside People’s Congregational United Church of Christ, site of the 4 DC Ward Covid Center, on March 31, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Eric Lee/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The genetic material cited by WHO’s Tedros was recently uploaded to a global database but was collected in 2020 at a market in Wuhan where wildlife was sold.

The samples showed that the raccoon dog’s DNA had mixed with the virus, the scientists said. They say the evidence adds to the hypothesis that COVID-19 came from animals, not labs, but doesn’t resolve the question of where it started. They say the virus can also spread from humans to raccoon dogs.

Chinese officials removed the information from the database after foreign scientists asked the CDC about it, but it was copied by a French expert and shared with researchers outside China.

Zhou Lei, a CDC researcher who worked in Wuhan, said Chinese scientists “share all the data we have” and “adhere to the principles of openness, objectivity and transparency.”

Shen said the scientists investigated the possibility of a laboratory leak and “fully shared our research and data without any secrecy or reservation.”

Shen said the origin of COVID-19 has yet to be found, but noted that it took years to identify the AIDS virus and its origin is still unclear.

“Some forces and personalities who instigate and participate in the politicization of the traceability issue and try to smear China should not think that the scientific community around the world will be blinded by their clumsy manipulations,” Shen said.


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