WHO team urges patience after 1st look for origin of virus

WHO team urges patience after 1st look for origin of virus

Gevena: An international team behind a long-awaited study of the possible origins of COVID-19 with Chinese colleagues on Tuesday called it a first start, while the United States and allies expressed concerns about the findings and China trumpeted its cooperation.

Team leader Peter Ben Embarek of the World Health Organization presented the team's first-phase look into the possible origins of the pandemic that has killed nearly 2.8 million people and pummeled economies since it first turned up in China over a year ago.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press on Monday and formally published on Tuesday, said transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is extremely unlikely. The WHO chief has said all hypotheses remain open.

After the report's publication, the U.S. and over a dozen other countries expressed concerns about the study, pointing to delays and a lack of access to samples and data without finger-pointing at Beijing directly. China responded by reiterating its criticism of efforts to politicize the issue.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration was still reviewing the WHO report, but said it lacks crucial data, information ... It lacks access. It lacks transparency." She said the study did not rise to the level of the impact that the pandemic has had on the world.

That's why we also have called for additional forward-looking steps, she said in a briefing with reporters. "It doesn't lead us to any closer (an) understanding or greater knowledge than we had six to nine months ago about the origin.

Separately, in what it called a joint statement by 14 countries, the State Department said they were calling for momentum for a second-phase look by experts and pointed to the need for further animal studies to find the means of introduction into humans of the Coronavirus.

The countries expressed support for the WHO's experts and staff, citing their tireless work toward ending the pandemic and understanding its origins to help prevent a future one. But they said the study had been significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.

Psaki said China has not been transparent with the U.N. health agency.

Meanwhile, China on Wednesday called for expanding the search for the origins of the Coronavirus in other countries, mainly America, as it sought to sidestep the WHO chief's assertion that further probe is required on allegations that the deadly virus may have leaked from a bio-lab in Wuhan, saying he may have not been accurately quoted.

Releasing the much-awaited report of an experts team which probed the origin of COVID-19 after visiting the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, World Health Organisation chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reopened the Trump era allegation, saying that it required further probe.

"Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy, Dr Tedros, who was earlier accused by the previous Trump administration as pro-China," said in Geneva on Tuesday.

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