The State Department issued a joint statement with 13 countries expressing concern about Chinese influence in the World Health Organization’s investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Together, we support a transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence, of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read.
“In this regard, we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China.”
WHO on Tuesday released a joint report with China on the origins of the virus that did not offer a definitive answer as to how the pandemic started.
It largely glossed over the theory that the virus entered the human population via a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and said the most likely explanation was that it jumped from an animal species to humans.
WHO researchers have said it is “extremely unlikely” that the virus escaped from a lab. China has also pushed back against the theory.
WHO was not allowed to conduct an independent investigation during its four-week visit to China early this year.
China was granted veto rights over which scientists could participate in the investigation and imposed strict limitations on the researchers during their visit, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Peter Daszak, the sole American on the WHO team, conceded in a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday that the researchers had to rely on information from Chinese scientists and authorities for the investigation into the lab leak hypothesis.
He also said that Chinese officials were present throughout the WHO team’s investigation.
“Going forward, there must now be a renewed commitment by WHO … to access, transparency, and timeliness,” the State Department said.
“In a serious outbreak of an unknown pathogen with pandemic potential, a rapid, independent, expert-led, and unimpeded evaluation of the origins is critical to better prepare our people, our public health institutions, our industries, and our governments to respond successfully to such an outbreak and prevent future pandemics,” the statement added.
The governments of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, Slovenia and the United Kingdom also signed the statement.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticized China’s lack of cooperation in the investigation on Tuesday.
China “[has] not been transparent. They have not provided underlying data. That certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation,” Psaki said.
.@PressSec is asked about the WHO report on covid’s origins glossing over the lab leak theory:
China “has not been transparent. They have not provided underlying data… It doesn’t provide us greater understanding of the origin of the virus.” pic.twitter.com/XmF8oVaphn
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 30, 2021
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also dinged the report on Tuesday, saying it didn’t sufficiently investigate the possibility of a lab leak.
“The team also visited several laboratories in Wuhan and considered the possibility that the virus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory incident,” Tedros said.
“However, I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough. Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”
“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,” he added.
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