Medical staff in protective suits treat patient in Wuhan
Medical staff in protective suits treat patient in WuhanReuters

China on Thursday rejected a World Health Organization (WHO) plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, which includes the hypothesis it could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory, a top health official said, according to Reuters.

The WHO earlier this month proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities.

"We will not accept such an origins-tracing plan as it, in some aspects, disregards common sense and defies science," Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), was quoted as having told reporters.

Zeng said he was taken aback when he first read the WHO plan because it lists the hypothesis that a Chinese violation of laboratory protocols had caused the virus to leak during research.

The head of the WHO said earlier in July that investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there.

Zeng reiterated China's position that some data could not be completely shared due to privacy concerns.

The first known cases of COVID-19 emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The virus was believed to have jumped to humans from animals being sold for food at a city market.

China has faced criticism for playing down the initial outbreak of the virus and concealing information when it first emerged in Wuhan.

Earlier this year, a WHO mission visited the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan in an attempt to explore how the virus jumped from animal to human.

The lead investigator for the WHO mission later said that the investigators discovered signs the outbreak was much wider in Wuhan in December 2019 than previously thought.