China on Friday pushed back against a report from the WHO saying more data was needed to investigate the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic and called the theory of a laboratory leak a "political lie." File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
June 10 (UPI) -- Beijing on Friday rejected the theory that the novel coronavirus may have emerged from a laboratory accident, calling it a political attack after a World Health Organization report said that more study is needed into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called the lab leak theory "a lie concocted by anti-China forces for political purposes," during a press briefing.
He also pushed back against charges that China attempted to cover up the initial outbreak of the virus and that it hasn't been cooperative with investigators.
China has "shared the most data and research results" of any country on the origin of the novel coronavirus, Zhao said.
After a 12-day visit to China in early 2021 to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, WHO investigators concluded it was "extremely unlikely" that the virus spilled over from a laboratory into the human population.
However, in a report released Thursday, a WHO advisory group said that "key pieces of data" are still missing to create a complete picture of how the pandemic began.
The group will "remain open to any and all scientific evidence that becomes available in the future to allow for comprehensive testing of all reasonable hypotheses," the 43-page report said.
The WHO was accused by some critics of being too deferential to China and too quick to dismiss the lab leak theory in its earlier evaluation. The U.N. agency's chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, later said that there had been a "premature push" to rule out the possibility.
On Friday, Zhao instead repeated China's unsubstantiated allegations that the coronavirus may have emerged from bioweapons research at American facilities.
"Since the advisory group report proposes to investigate the national biological laboratories with early cases around the world, the next stage should be the investigation of highly suspicious laboratories such as Fort Detrick in the United States and the University of North Carolina," Zhao said.
He also called on the WHO to probe "unexplained childhood hepatitis and monkeypox outbreaks" in the United States, Britain and Canada.
The novel coronavirus was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 before spreading the world over, infecting more than a half billion people and killing 6.3 million, according to data curated by Johns Hopkins University.