Fourteen countries concerned about WHO report on origin of COVID | News on the coronavirus pandemic

A group of 14 countries have raised concerns over a new World Health Organization (WHO) report on the origin of the coronavirus, citing delays and a lack of full access to data, while the clean agency chief called for further investigation of a theory. the outbreak was the result of a laboratory leak.

the widely awaited study Tuesday was based on an investigation by the agency’s fact-finding mission to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the new virus was first detected.

After a four-week visit, the WHO team of 17 international experts concluded in the report that it was “extremely unlikely” that COVID-19 had come from a laboratory leak, a position that had been first advanced by the United States last year. China strongly rejected these claims.

Instead, the scientists said it was “likely very likely” that the virus was introduced into humans by an intermediate host, and that it was “possible-to-likely” that the virus was transmitted. to humans by animals.

Later Tuesday, the 14 countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia and Israel, said in a statement that they “fully” support the efforts of the United Nations. ‘WHO to end the pandemic, including understanding how it “started and spread”.

But they added that it was “essential that we express our common concerns that the international expert study into the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been significantly delayed and does not have access to data. and original and complete samples ”.

Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia and the United Kingdom also co-signed the statement.

After a visit that lasted four weeks from mid-January, the report concluded that it was “ extremely unlikely ” that the coronavirus outbreak was the result of a lab leak. [File: Aly Song/Reuters]

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday also called for additional research to come to “stronger conclusions.”

“I don’t think this assessment has been thorough enough,” he said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“Although the team concluded that a lab leak is the least likely hypothesis, it requires further investigation, possibly with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am prepared to deploy,” Tedros added. .

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to perceived criticism from the WHO chief, saying Beijing had fully demonstrated “its openness, transparency and responsible attitude.”

“The politicization of this issue will only seriously hamper global cooperation in the study of origins, undermine anti-pandemic cooperation and cost more lives,” the ministry said in a statement.

The European Union called the report a “useful first step” and stressed “the need for further work”, urging “relevant authorities” to help, but without naming China.

Peter Ben Embarek, member of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the coronavirus, attends the WHO-China joint study press conference in Wuhan, China [File: Aly Song/Reuters]

Discussing his findings, Peter Ben Embarek, head of the research team that visited China, said the report “is not a statistical product, but a dynamic product,” adding that there will be a new analysis.

So far, Embarek said, there was no evidence or evidence to suggest that any of the laboratories in Wuhan, a city with virology facilities, could have been involved in a leakage accident.

“It’s not impossible,” he said, pointing out that accidents in laboratories have happened in the past. “But we haven’t been able to hear, see or watch anything that would warrant a different conclusion,” he added.

The inability of the WHO mission to further conclude where and how the virus began to spread among people means tensions will continue over how the pandemic began – and whether China has helped efforts for it. find out or, as the United States has alleged, hampered them.

Embarek said team members faced political pressure from “all parties,” but insisted, “We were never forced to remove critical elements from our report.”

He also said: “Where we didn’t have full access to all the raw data we wanted, this was presented as a recommendation for future studies.”

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