A Chinese state media commentary has hit out at a new report into the origins of COVID-19, which states that a lab leak is still on the table.
The article, released on Friday by the Chinese government’s official press agency Xinhua, dismissed any suggestion that the SARS-CoV-2 virus leaked from a Chinese lab, and said the theory had been “concocted by anti-China forces for political purposes.”
The new COVID report was published by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) on June 9.
The group was convened by the WHO last year to recommend further areas of study into the origins of COVID—and future pandemics—after previous investigations proved inconclusive.
The report states that the possibility of a lab leak is still an area of investigation and recommended that additional research be carried out involving staff at labs in close proximity to some of the first cases reported in China.
It also states that labs elsewhere in the world should be investigated if they’re located near to where pre-2020 cases were detected.
Such lab investigations could include examining biosafety measures, finding out whether there were any occupational illnesses before the recognized start of the pandemic, and looking at whether SARS-like coronaviruses were being engineered.
SAGO said there has been no new data to support the lab leak theory, but that it “remains important to consider all reasonable scientific data that is available … to evaluate the possibility of the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 into the human population through a laboratory incident.”
At the same time, the report places much emphasis on other potential origins including an animal host. It states that studies to investigate whether an animal could have spread COVID at the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, which played an important role in the early stages of the pandemic, have not been completed.
In response to the report, the Xinhua article pointed to the WHO’s inconclusive 2021 origins report that referred to a lab leak scenario as “extremely unlikely,” and the article also pushed a theory that COVID could actually have originated in the U.S.
It said the U.S. had been a “terrible bookkeeper” of its own early COVID outbreak and claimed that the Fort Detrick base in Maryland and biolabs at the University of North Carolina “have long been engaged in coronavirus research and modification.”
China has shared such COVID conspiracy theories about Fort Detrick before.
Though it has been considered unlikely, the idea of a COVID leaking from a lab has become a mainstream theory since the start of the pandemic.
Last year, president Joe Biden ordered the U.S. intelligence committee to look into the origins of COVID and to investigate whether it came from a lab or an animal. Again, that report was inconclusive.