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China cannot accept the World Health Organization’s plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19, a senior Chinese health official said Thursday. Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was shocked by the plan and specifically, the theory that the virus might have leaked from a Chinese lab. He dismissed the theory as a rumour that runs counter to common sense and science. “It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” he said at a news conference called to address the COVID-19 origins issue. The search for the origins of the virus has become a diplomatic issue that has worsened China’s relations with the U.S. and many of its allies. The U.S. and others say that China has not been transparent about what happened in the early days of the pandemic. China accuses critics of politicizing an issue that should be left to scientists.

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