A health minister in China has rejected the World Health Organization's plan for the next phase of its investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the Associated Press reports.
The previous stage of the WHO investigation culminated in a report issued in late March that said the virus likely arose in bats before being transmitted to people via an intermediary, an explanation, the AP notes, that is favored by most experts. The report further dismissed the lab-leak theory as "extremely unlikely." Critics, however, argued the report did not fully consider the idea and that investigators did not have enough access to lab data to come to that conclusion. The US, UK, and other countries have additionally said that China has not been transparent about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and President Joe Biden instructed US intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts studying viral origins.
Last week, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said the international health agency prematurely ruled out the lab-leak theory, and the AP now notes that the WHO's proposal for the next stage of its investigation includes investigating that possibility.
Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the National Health Commission in China, though, said during a press conference that he was shocked to see it included in the proposal, CNN reports. "In some aspects, the WHO's plan for next phase of investigation of the coronavirus origin doesn't respect common sense, and it's against science. It's impossible for us to accept such a plan," he added, according to CNN.
The Wall Street Journal adds that Zeng said China had submitted its own plan, which includes searching for an animal host and studying early COVID-19 cases found in other countries.