Chinese embassy in US says politicising Covid-19 origins hampers investigations

China has repeatedly denied that the lab was responsible. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China's embassy in the United States said on Thursday (May 27) that politicising the origins of Covid-19 would hamper investigations, after US President Joe Biden said the US intelligence community is divided over where the virus emerged.

As the World Health Organisation prepares to begin a second phase of investigations into the origins of Covid-19, China has been under pressure to give international investigators more access, amid several recent reports suggesting that it leaked from a laboratory specialising in coronavirus research in the city of Wuhan.

China has repeatedly denied that the lab was responsible, saying that the United States and other countries were trying to distract attention from their own failures to contain the virus.

The embassy in Washington said on Thursday that "some political forces have been fixated on political manipulation and (the) blame game".

China supports "a comprehensive study of all early cases of Covid-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world", it said in remarks attributed to a spokesperson, posted on its website.

"Very clearly they are trying to internationalise their way out of the jam they are in," said Mr Jamie Metzl, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, which has been campaigning for a new independent investigation.

Mr Huang Yanzhong, senior fellow for global health with the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said China's lack of openness was a major factor behind the resurgence of the lab leak theory.

"There's nothing really new there to prove the hypothesis," he said. "In the investigation of the origins of the pandemic it is really important to have transparency in order to build trust in the investigation results."

A joint China-WHO study published in March said that it was highly improbable that Sars-CoV-2 leaked from the lab, adding that it most likely spread from bats to humans via an as yet unidentified intermediary species.

Remote video URL

China has also continued to point to the possibility that Covid-19 originated in another country and entered via infected frozen food or through South-east Asia wildlife trade networks.

The Global Times tabloid, part of the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper group, said late on Wednesday that if the "lab leak theory" is to be further investigated, the United States should also allow investigators into its own facilities.

"The pandemic started in China," Mr Metzl said.

"Let's start with a full investigation there and expand as necessary. In short, this (statement from the embassy) is an outrageous insult to every person who has died from this terrible tragedy and their families."

Mr Huang of CFR said further investigations into the origins of Covid-19 were at an "impasse".

"Ideally you want China to be more cooperative and more transparent," Huang said. "But now the issue has become so politicised, with the stakes of the investigation so high."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.