China outlines COVID-origin findings, ahead of WHO report; US again sets daily vaccine record

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Chinese officials briefed diplomats Friday on the ongoing research into the origin of COVID-19, ahead of the expected release of a long-awaited report from the World Health Organization.

The briefing appeared to be an attempt by China to get out its view on the report, which has become enmeshed in a diplomatic spat. The U.S. and others have raised questions about Chinese influence and the independence of the findings, and China has accused critics of politicizing a scientific study.

“Our purpose is to show our openness and transparency,” said Yang Tao, a Foreign Ministry official. “China fought the epidemic in a transparent manner and has nothing to hide.”

The report, which has been delayed repeatedly, is based on a visit earlier this year by a WHO team of international experts to Wuhan, the city in central China where infections from a new coronavirus were first reported in late 2019.

The experts worked with Chinese counterparts, and both sides have to agree on the final report. It’s unclear when it will come out.

Feng Zijian, a Chinese team member and the deputy director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the experts examined four possible ways the virus got to Wuhan.

They are: a bat carrying the virus infected a human, a bat infected an intermediate mammal that spread it to a human, shipments of cold or frozen food, and a laboratory that researches viruses in Wuhan.

In other developments:

  • The United States set a new daily record for number of vaccines administered, the White House said Friday. The total number of doses administered jumped by about 3.38 million, the fourth time the number of doses administered has jumped more than 3 million on consecutive days. The previous one-day record was just over 3.2 million doses, on March 13.
  • The latest federal coronavirus relief package includes $81 billion that began flowing to states this week with the goal of helping schools reopen quickly — with one obstacle being that many of the districts’ problems can’t be solved by money.
  • Researchers in the U.S. and abroad are beginning to test younger and younger kids to make sure COVID-19 vaccines are safe and work for each age. The first shots are going to adults who are most at risk from the coronavirus, but ending the pandemic will require vaccinating children too.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ripped into the federal government’s continued pandemic ban on cruise ships using U.S. ports, threatening Friday to file a lawsuit if one of the state’s biggest tourism sectors is not allowed to resume operations soon.
  • European Union vaccine politics reached a fever pitch Friday with charges of British blackmail and unfair practices among EU members flying about as the bloc frantically sought to ramp up production and impose export controls to stave off another deadly surge in coronavirus infections.

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