The White House called on China to transmit data from the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and expressed “deep concerns” over a World Health Organization fact-finding mission to Wuhan.
After a four-week visit to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic is believed to have appeared, the WHO This week said it was “extremely unlikely” that the pathogen had leaked from a Chinese laboratory – a theory the Trump administration had promoted without providing evidence.
“We are deeply concerned about the manner in which the initial findings of the Covid-19 investigation have been communicated and questions about the process,” said Jake Sullivan, national security adviser on Saturday.
The criticism came after The Wall Street Journal reported that some WHO experts said China failed to provide raw data related to a possible outbreak until December 2019 in another part of China.
“China must make its data available from the first days of the epidemic,” Sullivan said in the statement.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said on Friday that all hypotheses “remain open” and that more studies and analysis are needed to reach a more definitive conclusion on the origin of the virus. But he added that some of that work could be “outside the mandate and scope” of the WHO four-week mission to Wuhan.
During the Trump administration, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. After repeatedly accusing the WHO of bending to China’s will, Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the organization.
Sullivan said President Joe Biden returned to WHO because the World Health Organization had “never been more important”, but stressed that joining the World Health Organization also meant “keeping it at highest standards ”. A US official said the US government spoke privately to the WHO about its concerns.
“At this critical time, protecting the credibility of the WHO is a top priority,” Sullivan said.
After the visit to Wuhan, Peter Ben Embarek, the head of the WHO mission, said: “We are still a long way from understanding the origin.”
He said the researchers were able to track the suppliers of different wildlife products as a potential clue for further studies. He added that there was a better understanding that there was no widespread cluster of the disease until December 2019, in Wuhan or elsewhere.
The WHO said its interim and final reports were not complete, but officials hinted that more information would be contained when it was released.
“It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert conclusions free from any interference or modification by the Chinese government,” Sullivan said.
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