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Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of National Health Commission, and director of the vaccine R&D working group under the State Council's inter-agency task force, at a press conference in Beijing, China last December. Photo: Leo Ramirez/AFP via Getty Images

A top Chinese health official said Thursday the government doesn't accept World Health Organization plans for a follow-up investigation into COVID-19's origins — labeling a theory that it started from a laboratory leak a "rumor," per AP.

Why it matters: National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin's comments come days after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was "too early" to rule out the lab leak theory and proposed a second phase of study into the virus' origins.

What they're saying: Zeng said at a news conference he was "surprised" by a WHO proposal to revisit Wuhan, where the virus was first detected and where a group of researchers from the UN health body visited in January, Al Jazeera reports. He called the follow-up plan "not scientific."

  • "It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan," he added, per AP.

Flashback: Tedros said last week that uncovering the coronavirus' origins was "a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics," according to Reuters.

  • "For that to happen, we expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency," he said.

The big picture: The debate over the origins of the coronavirus has gained traction in recent months following previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill enough to be hospitalized in November 2019, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal in May.

  • The U.S. and other countries, along with some scientists, have demanded a follow-up investigation by the WHO.
  • President Biden said in May he had asked the American intelligence community to "redouble their efforts" to investigate the virus' origins.

Go deeper: Why we need to know COVID's origins

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

16 hours ago - Health

CDC: Delta variant may cause mild COVID among fully vaccinated people

A storefront sign in Los Angeles reminds people masks are for everyone. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

About 74% of 469 COVID-19 cases associated with large gatherings held in Barnstable County, Mass., from July 3 to 17 were among fully vaccinated people, according to data released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The data bolsters emerging evidence that vaccinated people have high viral loads and may transmit the Delta variant as easily as those who are unvaccinated.

Updated 11 hours ago - Economy & Business

More corporations are requiring workers to get vaccinated

Graphic: Axios Visuals

Life for the unvaccinated could get more difficult as bosses increasingly move to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.

The big picture: The federal Government in May said that it is legal for companies to require employees to get vaccinated for coronavirus.

White House: Over 500,000 new shots recorded Friday, highest since July 1

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The United States recorded more than half a million new COVID-19 vaccine shots on Friday, the highest number since July 1, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Why it matters: The Delta variant is continuing to spread across the United States and it now comprises over 80% of the coronavirus cases in the country, Jean-Pierre said. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that "vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death."