As part of a statement signed by 12 other countries, the US and UK have heavily criticized a World Health Organization (WHO) report into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, while also accusing China of ‘withholding access to complete, original data and samples”.
The statement, whose other signatories include Australia and Canada, came soon after the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, admitted that his organization’s investigation was “not extensive enough” and that his team of experts had difficulties accessing raw information during their four-week visit to Wuhan at the beginning of the year.
On Tuesday, shortly after Tedros’ comments, the 14 countries – including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia and Israel – said in a statement that they “fully” supported the WHO’s efforts to bring an end to the pandemic, including understanding how it “started and spread”.
But they also added that they felt it was “essential that we voice our shared concerns that the international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples”.
The long-awaited report by WHO-commissioned experts and their Chinese counterparts concluded that the global pandemic probably came to humans from animals.
WHO leader Tedros admitted that he believed there should be a continued examination of the theory that the virus had escaped from a Wuhan institute of virology laboratory, despite the report concluding that it was ‘extremely unlikely’ to be the source of the pandemic.
“In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data,” Tedros said.
“I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing,” he said pointedly while adding that the report “advances our understanding in important ways”.
“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” Tedros said.
While the WHO report found that a number of possible sources of the pandemic were unlikely, officials revealed that this investigation was just the beginning and a network of new, detailed investigations would now have to take place.
“We will see that in the report, there is a lot of very detailed information and useful information that again point towards the need for very specific new studies,” Dr. Ben Embarek revealed at the WHO briefing on their findings on Tuesday.
“The Chinese counterparts, ahead of our coming were also conducting a large number of surveys on animals, different types of animals, wild animals, animals from zoos, animals from farms, domestic animals, et cetera, dozens of thousands of animals were tested and all negative. So again, showing the difficulty of picking up a particular species as a potential intermediary host.”
“(President Biden believes) that the American people, the global community, the medical experts, the doctors, all of the people who’ve been working to save lives, the families who have lost loved ones, all deserve greater transparency. They deserve better information. They deserve steps that are taken by the global community to provide that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during her latest press conference, during which the topic of the latest WHO report was brought up by the attending media.
“So there was an extensive statement put out by a number of countries, including the U.S. But let me highlight, and we’re still reviewing the report, but let me highlight some of the concerns that have come up to date: the report lacks crucial data, information, and access.
“It represents a partial and incomplete picture. There was a joint statement, as I noted that was put out. We also welcome a similar statement from the EU, and EU members sending a clear message that the global community shares these concerns.
“There are steps from here that we believe should be taken. There’s a second stage in this process that we believe should be led by international and independent experts. They should have unfettered access to data. They should be able to ask questions of people who are on the ground at this point in time. And that’s a step that WHO could take,” Psaki continued.
“They have not been transparent. They have not provided underlying data. That certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation. The analysis performed to date from our experts, their concern is that there isn’t additional support for one hypothesis. It doesn’t lead us to any closer of an understanding or greater knowledge than we had six to nine months ago about the origin. It also doesn’t provide us guidelines or steps, recommended steps on how we should prevent this from happening in the future. And those are imperative.”