A senior Chinese health official says China cannot accept the World Health Organization's plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19.
National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin said he was "rather taken aback" by the call for a further look into the pandemic's origins and, specifically, the theory that the virus might have leaked from a Chinese lab.
He dismissed that theory as a disproved rumor.
"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 head of the WHO acknowledged last week that it was premature to rule out a potential link between the pandemic and a leak of the coronavirus from a Chinese lab.
Zeng said the lab in the city of Wuhan has no virus that can directly infect humans.
Most health experts don't think a leak is a likely cause. The question is whether the possibility is so remote that it should be dropped, or whether it merits further study.
Experts have said they believe the virus most likely jumped directly from an animal to humans or was passed to another animal species before jumping to humans.
Earlier this year, a WHO team concluded that such transmission at one of the live animal markets in Wuhan, China was the most likely cause of the first case of COVID-19 in humans. That team recommended further study of the farms that supplied the market, according to the Associated Press.
In May, President Joe Biden ordered federal intelligence agencies to collect more information in the hopes of reaching a conclusion as to the origins of COVID-19. Other top U.S. officials have criticized China for its lack of transparency in studying the origins of the virus.