Britain says China must cooperate with WHO on COVID
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Wednesday that China must cooperate with the World Health Organization review into the origins of the virus which causes COVID-19 so that the world can understand who is responsible.
The United States and Britain have expressed concern over the access given to a WHO mission to China – where the novel coronavirus emerged in late 2019.
“We want to see full cooperation,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC radio.
Raab said that the world needed to know detail of the origins of the outbreak “because then the issue of responsibility can be addressed but also frankly, looking forward, so we can learn the lessons.”
(Reporting by Sarah Young, Paul Sandle and Kate Holtong; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)
The Biden administration has “deep concerns” about the World Health Organization’s early Covid-19 investigation, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Saturday, calling on China to release data from the beginning of the outbreak.
“It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government,” Sullivan wrote in a statement. “Going forward, all countries, including China, should participate in a transparent and robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies — so that the world learns as much as possible as soon as possible.”
Early in the pandemic, China ignored offers from experts to help investigate the Covid-19 outbreak and has been criticized over its transparency as the pandemic spread globally. The WHO recently concluded that it was unlikely the coronavirus came from a Chinese lab and that it likely came from an animal.
President Joe Biden has moved to rejoin the WHO after former President Donald Trump took the U.S. out of the organization.
In the statement, Sullivan said the WHO’s work “has never been more important” and that “we have deep respect for its experts and the work they are doing every day to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“But re-engaging the WHO also means holding it to the highest standards,” Sullivan wrote. “And at this critical moment, protecting the WHO’s credibility is a paramount priority.”
China refuses to give WHO raw data on early COVID-19 cases: WSJ
(Reuters) – Chinese authorities refused to provide World Health Organization investigators with raw, personalized data on early COVID-19 cases that could help them determine how and when the coronavirus first began to spread in China, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing WHO investigators.
Peter Ben Embarek, a food safety and animal diseases expert, announced the decision during a press conference to wrap up a visit by an international team of WHO experts to the city where COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019.
Embarek said there was not enough evidence to support a hypothesis that the virus escaped from a Chinese biosafety laboratory in Wuhan – the Wuhan Institute of Virology – and that the WHO stood by its previous determination that COVID-19 most likely entered the human population through an intermediate animal.
The WHO team has spent several weeks on a fact-finding mission in Wuhan. Experts from 10 nations have visited hospitals, research institutes and a wildlife market tied to the outbreak. However, the WHO’s fieldwork and other activities in Wuhan have been closely monitored by Chinese officials and security officers, and Beijing has repeatedly resisted called for a completely independent investigation into the origins of the virus.
“Did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand? I don’t think so,” said Embarek, a Danish national who spoke on behalf of the WHO delegation during the press conference Tuesday. “Did we improve our understanding? Did we add details to that picture? Absolutely.”
No evidence has emerged to support suggestions that the coronavirus originated from a virology lab in Wuhan.
The theory stems from circumstantial evidence from several disparate sources, including repeated assertions from former President Donald Trump and his political backers, who never cited specific evidence. Speculation also emerged due to the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s relative proximity to the wildlife market in Wuhan where some of the first cases of the virus were traced. A number of high-profile commentators have also noted that the Wuhan Institute of Virology is China’s most advanced biosafety lab and is known for its work researching coronaviruses in bats.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology also attracted negative attention because of China’s initial unwillingness to share information about some aspects of the outbreak.
Embarek said the WHO team’s work to uncover COVID-19’s origins pointed to a “natural reservoir” in bats. However, he said more work needed to be done because it was unclear whether this was in Wuhan itself.
Liang Wannian, a member of China’s Health Commission who also appeared in the press conference, said it’s possible COVID-19 originated somewhere else in China before arriving in Wuhan.
The WHO concluded that the Wuhan wildlife market was an area where the virus began spreading rapidly but it was unable to determine how it first arrived there.
“The market probably was a setting where that kind of spread could have happened easily, but that’s not the whole story,” Embarek said.
Peter Daszak, a British-American member of the WHO team in Wuhan, previously told USA TODAY that “in peoples’ imaginations there might be this image of one person in a lab in China who drops a petri dish and that somehow leads to a massive outbreak. It’s just not like that. Every year there are millions of people going in bat caves and hunting and eating wildlife. It happens every day.
“They are being exposed to bat viruses every day. It only takes one of these people to go to a city, cough and spread a virus,” he said.