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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeated his call for a probe into the origins of Covid-19. Photo: Getty Images.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeated his call for a probe into the origins of Covid-19. Photo: Getty Images.

Disinfectant is sprayed in Wuhanlast March during the early days of the Covid outbreak. A laboratory in the city had been researching closely related viruses before the pandemic...I

Disinfectant is sprayed in Wuhanlast March during the early days of the Covid outbreak. A laboratory in the city had been researching closely related viruses before the pandemic...I

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeated his call for a probe into the origins of Covid-19. Photo: Getty Images.

China is reviewing plans for further inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, after the head of the World Health Organisation urged Beijing to co-operate in the next phase of the investigation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing yesterday that Beijing was mulling over a proposal made by WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Mr Zhao reaffirmed China’s position that any decision on continuing the probe “should be reached by all members through consultation”.

“The Chinese side noted the draft plan made by Tedros and the secretariat and the Chinese side is looking into it,” Mr Zhao said in response to a question about Mr Tedros’s comments. “Origin-tracing is a scientific matter. All parties should respect the opinion of the scientists and should refrain from politicising origin-tracing.”

The WHO proposed audits of the laboratories and research centres where the first human cases were identified in late 2019, as well as integrated studies of humans, wildlife, captive and farmed animals and the environment. It also suggested prioritising places with the earliest signs of Covid circulation and neighbouring areas with related coronaviruses. Animal markets in and around Wuhan should also be examined and additional epidemiology work done.

“We expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency,” Mr Tedros told member states yesterday. “Equally, we expect all member states to support the scientific process by refraining from politicising it.”

The WHO chief’s remarks were the latest in a series of international efforts to press Beijing for more openness about the first known coronavirus outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Mr Tedros said scientists still lacked enough raw data on infections and possible cases in late 2019.

Separately, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison repeated his call for a transparent probe into the pandemic’s origins, saying “the world deserves answers”.

Mr Morrison was echoing the G7’s call for a “timely, transparent, expert-led and science-based” study into the virus’s beginnings.

Mr Tedros said the WHO will establish the International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, which will assist in the next phase of the origin probe.

China has accused the US and its allies of pushing investigations as part of a campaign to blame it for a pandemic that has killed more than four million people globally. Beijing rejects further inquiry into whether the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a facility near the first known outbreak sites that conducted coronavirus research.

Earlier this year, a mission organised jointly with the WHO that included scientists from China found the virus probably spread from bats to humans via another animal.

The mission considered a laboratory incident the least likely hypothesis.

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