US and other countries question credibility of WHO coronavirus report

Washington DC - The United States and more than a dozen other countries outlined shared concerns Tuesday about the speed and thoroughness of a new World Health Organization-led study of the origins of Covid-19.

The headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.  © IMAGO / Xinhua

In a statement, the countries emphasized worries that the investigation "was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples."

"Scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings," said the statement from countries including Britain, Canada and South Korea.

The WHO’s study, conducted in tandem with China, provided assessments of possible sources of the virus that has killed more than 2.7 million people around the globe. A team visited Wuhan, where cases first emerged, as part of the inquiry.

The report described an initial viral transmission from animals to humans as "a possible-to-likely pathway."

The study said it was not likely that the virus emerged from a lab, downplaying a controversial theory that has received support from Dr. Robert Redfield, who directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during part of the Trump administration.

The WHO described the inquiry as just the start of research into the origins of the virus. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director-general, tweeted Tuesday that the inquiry represents "a very important beginning, but it is not the end."

The joint statement signed by the US called for an "independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence."

Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Slovenia all joined in the statement.

"We share these concerns not only for the benefit of learning all we can about the origins of this pandemic, but also to lay a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises," said the statement.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Xinhua

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