12:08 GMT05 August 2021
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    BEIJING (Sputnik) - China regards the World Health Organization's (WHO) criteria for the second phase of the investigation into origins of the coronavirus as insulting and will not follow them, the National Health Commission said on Thursday.

    Last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the second study will include an audit of labs and research facilities in the area where the first cases of COVID-19 were registered in December 2019. The new study is part of a five-stage plan which the WHO put together to identify where the coronavirus came from.

    "Until December 31, 2019, the Wuhan Institute of Virology had never studied and faced COVID-19. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has never synthesized, created COVID and never let it leak. Moreover, no employee or student of the institute had not been infected with COVID-19 until that moment," a representative of the institute said at a press conference.

    He stressed that there was no evidence of an artificial origin of the virus and its leak from the laboratory.

    "Scientists have reached a consensus that COVID-19is of a natural origin. Experts have published a statement saying that there is no evidence of the artificial origin of COVID-19 and its leak from the laboratory," the representative said.

    Meanwhile, the Global Times reported that over  half a million Chinese citizens signed a joint letter to the WHo, demanding a probe into US Fort Detrick Lab to "prevent" future epidemics. The letter noted that China has allowed Western virologists and US media representatives to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology, while the US has not followed suit with the Fort Detrick nor shared any data with "countries including China that are independent from US geopolitical influence."

    The US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland, was briefly shut down in 2019 after an inspection by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The lab said that the reason for its shutdown was "ongoing infrastructure issues with wastewater decontamination."

    Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (red) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), also known as novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland
    © REUTERS / NIH/Handout
    Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (red) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), also known as novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland

    US President Joe Biden has ordered the US intelligence community to produce a report reexamining the origins of the coronavirus and determining whether the disease leaked from a lab or spread from an infected animal to a human. China, in turn, continues to call the laboratory-leak theory a conspiracy.

    In January, international experts traveled to Wuhan where they examined a laboratory, hospitals and markets for clues on the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The WHO expert mission then compiled a report, saying that a leak of the new coronavirus from a laboratory in Wuhan, the first hotbed of COVID-19, was very unlikely. The report, released in March, said that the new virus was most likely transmitted to humans from bats through an intermediary host.

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