Countries respond to WHO report on origins of COVID-19

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Fourteen countries, including the United States, responded to a report released Tuesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the origins of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), expressing concerns in a joint statement that the report was delayed and lacked complete data.

The statement was signed by governments from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom.

“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 said. “In this regard, we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China, while at the same time reinforcing the importance of working together toward the development and use of a swift, effective, transparent, science-based, and independent process for international evaluations of such outbreaks of unknown origin in the future.”

The statement notes the international expert study on the source of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was significantly delayed, and lacked access to complete, original data and samples. China refused to provide raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the global pandemic began, the WHO investigators said.

The countries called for further studies of animals to find how the virus was introduced to humans, and a renewed commitment from WHO and member countries to access, transparency, and timeliness in conducting such research.

“it is critical for independent experts to have full access to all pertinent human, animal, and environmental data, research, and personnel involved in the early stages of the outbreak relevant to determining how this pandemic emerged,” the statement said. “With all data in hand, the international community may independently assess COVID-19 origins, learn valuable lessons from this pandemic, and prevent future devastating consequences from outbreaks of disease.”

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