Chinese Official Denies Wuhan Institute of Virology Workers Caught COVID

A Chinese government health official denied that workers at the Wuhan Insitute of Virology (WIV) were infected with COVID shortly before the disease first emerged.

Zeng Yixin, deputy head of China's National Health Commission, made his comments in a press conference in Beijing on Thursday.

He also announced that China wouldn't be participating in the next stage of the World Health Organization's COVID origins investigation, which highlights the possibility the virus could have come from a Chinese lab.

Zeng said the plan "disregards common sense and defies science" and added that "no worker or researcher at the WIV got infected by coronavirus," CNN reported.

It comes after a U.S. intelligence report, disclosed in May by the Wall Street Journal, claimed three WIV researchers became sick in November 2019 and ended up seeking hospital care.

The origin of the COVID virus remains unclear and has been a topic of international tension since the pandemic began.

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched an investigation into the matter and published a report in March this year.

It found the most likely scenario was that COVID was introduced to humans through an intermediate animal host, and that the accidental lab leak theory was "extremely unlikely."

The report said that while "laboratory accidents do happen… the three laboratories in Wuhan working with either CoVs diagnostics and/or CoVs isolation and vaccine development all had high quality biosafety level facilities that were well-managed."

Lack of Access to Data

However, the WHO report faced swift criticism from several governments around the world, including the U.S., who voiced concerns that the study had been "significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples," according to a joint statement following the report's publication.

On May 26, President Joe Biden said he had tasked the U.S. Intelligence Community with producing its own report on the origins of COVID. He said he expected the report back within 90 days.

Last week, CNN cited an anonymous source as saying that several top Biden administration officials including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan now view the accidental lab leak theory as equally plausible to the natural origins theory.

On Thursday, Zeng dismissed the WHO's current plans for a follow-up investigation and said, according to Reuters: "We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference."

Zeng Yixin
Chinese health official Zeng Yixin (R) speaks at a press conference in Beijing in December 2020. Yixin has criticised the WHO's current plans for the next stage of COVID investigations. Noel Celis/AFP/Getty