Efforts to probe the origin of COVID-19 could be hamstrung by the politicization of the issue, with a conspiracy theory about lab leaks taking precedence over a scientific conclusion, Nepali health and foreign policy experts have said recently.
"It is unfortunate that politics have muddled the issue of identifying the source of COVID-19," said Baburam Marasini, a former director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under the Ministry of Health and Population.
In a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in late March after a field study in China's Wuhan, it was concluded that a lab-leak explanation of the origin of the coronavirus was "extremely unlikely."
Despite advice from its experts that no further studies on lab leaks should be conducted, the WHO recently proposed a second-phase plan into the origin of the coronavirus in China with a focus on the lab-leak theory.
Rejecting the second-phase origin study plan, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that as an independent and sovereign country, China will not and cannot accept any work plan that is not a real plan to find the virus, but a plan to discredit China.
Basudev Pandey, also a former director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, said that even scientific evidence could lose its credibility if it is clouded by politics.
"There should not be any political motive in the origin-tracing of COVID-19," he told Xinhua.
Pandey also saw a certain U.S. influence in the latest WHO proposal, noting that "after rejoining the WHO, the U.S. appears to have increased its influence in the world health body."
Then U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the WHO in 2020. His successor Joe Biden had the United States rejoin the health agency earlier this year.
The focus of the Western countries on origin-tracing of COVID-19 appears to be guided by promoting a global narrative that China is the source of extreme sufferings for people, said Rupak Sapkota, deputy executive director at the Institute of Foreign Affairs, a foreign policy advisory body under the Nepali Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"China could bring the pandemic under control excellently while the developed countries failed to do so," he told Xinhua. "So they want to undermine China by directing global outrage against China in the context that so many lives have been lost and the livelihoods of many people affected by COVID-19."
In his view, the WHO should have focused more on how to save the weak and poor economies from a potential new wave of the virus as the developed countries are hoarding COVID-19 vaccines in excess of what they need themselves.