China: We've looked at this lab leak theory enough

The World Health Organization is preparing to launch the next phase of its investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, having come up with nothing definitive thus far. Or at least they were preparing to do that, anyway. They encountered something of a snag in their plans after unveiling the general routes of inquiry they planned to pursue this week. One portion of the agenda involved a closer examination into the types of viruses being studied at the Wuhan Institute of Virology to see if there might be a match found there. This drew an immediate response from the Vice Minister of China’s National Health Commission, who said that he was “taken aback” by such a suggestion. There is, he said, simply no way that China can accept such a plan and there will be no cooperation on their part with this effort. (Associated Press)

China cannot accept the World Health Organization’s plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19, a senior Chinese health official said Thursday.

Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was “rather taken aback” that the plan includes further investigation of the theory that the virus might have leaked from a Chinese lab.

He dismissed the lab leak idea as a rumor that runs counter to common sense and science.

“It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” he said at a news conference called to address the COVID-19 origins issue.

Zeng is sticking to the party line on every point here. (That would be the Chinese Communist Party.) He’s insisting that there are no viruses in the laboratory capable of being transmitted to humans. He’s also reminding everyone that the WHO’s initial investigation when they went to China last year ruled out the lab leak theory. Of course, the Chinese never even allowed the WHO scientists to enter the lab, so I suppose we’re just supposed to take his word for it?

By this point, even WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is saying that there was a “premature push” to rule out the lab leak theory. There’s also the inconvenient fact that three staff members at the lab became so ill with COVID-like symptoms in November of 2019 that they had to be hospitalized. But I’m sure this is all just one big series of coincidences, right?

But hold on for a moment. Maybe the Chinese are on to something here, leading to an exciting new theory. We’ve still yet to see one case of the novel coronavirus in its original form showing up in a single bat, pangolin, or any other creature in the wild after more than a year of searching. But they’re insisting that it’s impossible that it came out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. So maybe the virus doesn’t actually exist and there really isn’t a pandemic at all! (Okay… I didn’t say it was a particularly good theory.)

This is quickly turning into a bad joke. I’m not saying that the virus definitely came out of the lab. We may never find a definitive answer as to the origins. Even after many decades of study, we’re still not entirely sure where, when, and how the AIDS virus made the jump to human beings, though there are some strong candidate theories. But we owe it to the world to make our best effort to figure this out and hopefully prevent the next pandemic from getting off the ground. And at least thus far, China is showing no willingness to openly and transparently assist in this effort. In fact, they seem more like they’re intentionally blocking the investigation than helping with it.