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Ambassador Feng Tie: Base COVID-19 origin-tracing on science and boost international cooperation

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has been working closely with WHO in COVID-19 origin-tracing. However, there have been groundless accusations against China. On August 12, TV2 aired a documentary on origin-tracing. This documentary, full of specious assumptions and vague inferences, is not based on facts but presuppositions and aims to smear China and politicize the origin studying issue by misleading the audience. Mr. Embarek said the relevant media distorted his views by publishing his words out of context online. He himself, as the head of the WHO origins-tracing mission to China, has been always upholding the China-WHO joint mission report on origin study.

China has attached high importance to the study into the origin of the virus. We have actively participated in global cooperation with an open and science-based attitude. China has been firmly supporting and coordinating with WHO. We have twice invited WHO experts, including experts from Denmark, to carry out joint research on origin-tracing. WHO experts and their Chinese colleagues overcame difficulties brought by the pandemic and had face-to-face exchange in a candid, in-depth and friendly manner. WHO experts spoke highly of the good collaboration from the Chinese side. They said that they had full access to every place they asked to visit and met everyone they wanted to meet, and obtained important new data and learned more about possible transmission routes of the virus. They were impressed by the candor and trustworthiness of their Chinese colleagues.

The WHO-China joint report formed after the trip was in full compliance with WHO procedures and scientific methods. It has been proved to be a valuable and authoritative report that can stand the test of science and history. Officially released by the WHO, the report should serve as the basis and guide for global efforts on origin-tracing. Any attempt to overturn or distort the conclusions of the joint research report is a result of political manipulation and disrespect to science and scientists from different parts of the world. In the WHO-China joint origin-tracing report, the conclusion was that laboratory leak is extremely unlikely. The report’s recommendations were to search for possible early cases on a global scale, and to study the possibility of cold-chain transmission of virus, etc. These are scientific and objective conclusions reached by international and Chinese experts after a lot of serious and meticulous research work and discussions, which have been recognized by the international scientific community, and should be respected and maintained.

Recently, over 80 countries have sent letters and notes to the WHO or issued statements in support of the WHO-China joint report, opposing politicizing origin-tracing, and more than 30 countries clearly expressed their opposition or reservation to WHO Secretariat’s work proposal for the next stage origin-tracing. Many political parties, organizations, experts, scholars and media have expressed their opposition to politicizing origin-tracing and their support to scientific efforts. More than 300 political parties, social organizations and think tanks from over 100 countries and regions have submitted a joint statement to the WHO Secretariat, calling on the WHO to carry out the Covid-19 origin study in an objective and impartial manner and firmly opposing politicization of origin-tracing. These voices for justice should and must be heard.

China supports the second phase of origin-tracing study. What China disagrees with is politicization of origin-tracing. What China rejects is the origin-tracing that deviates from the relevant WHA resolution. And what China will not participate in is the origin-tracing that disregards the conclusions and recommendations of the first phase of the study. Origin-tracing is a serious and complex scientific question that requires the collaboration of scientists around the world and joint efforts and cooperation of governments and people of all countries. China will continue to take an active part in global cooperation on origin-tracing with a responsible, open and transparent attitude.

The Chinese position on the second phase of origin-tracing study is as follows:

Firstly, the second phase should be guided by the relevant WHA resolution, based on science and evidence, and conducted mainly by scientists. The conclusions and recommendations of the joint WHO-China study report of the first phase have been widely recognized by the international community and the community of science, and should serve as the basis for the second phase of studies.

Secondly, the second phase should not repeat what has already been done during the first phase, especially in the aspect where clear conclusions have already been drawn. For example, the joint WHO-China study report states clearly that lab leak is extremely unlikely. The main focus of the second phase should be on possible pathways identified as "very likely" and "likely" by the joint report, including introduction through an intermediate host or cold-chain products. Efforts should be made to advance origin study in various countries and regions.

Thirdly, the practice, mechanisms and approaches used in the first phase should be applied to further studies in an orderly and smooth manner. There should be assessment and analysis of existing research outcomes and new evidence. The regions to be covered by the second phase and the work plan should be determined after comprehensive assessment based on open evidence study.

At present, the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet been effectively controlled around the world, and the variants of SARS-CoV-2 have spread to many countries. China has done all it can to constantly provide substantial support, including vaccines, to other countries and WHO. China calls on WHO to pool the efforts of all parties including scientists to make controlling the pandemic as the top priority. China calls for further promoting Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and COVAX at a quicker pace, and developing and distributing more effective diagnostic reagent, medicine and vaccines to save lives. On the basis of that, the virus origin-tracing should be studied as a serious and scientific issue without any politicization. Continuous and appropriate origin-tracing on a global scale should be actively promoted and international exchanges and cooperation further enhanced.

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