China urged to be ‘transparent’ in providing raw data on pandemic’s origins

We owe it to the millions who suffered and died to know what happened, says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (AP pic)



GENEVA: The head of the World Health Organization said today that investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there and urged it to be more transparent.

A WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around the central city of Wuhan with Chinese researchers and said in a joint report in March that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal.

It said “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway”, but countries including the US and some scientists were not satisfied.

“We ask China to be transparent and open, and to cooperate,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference today.

“We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened,” he said.

China has called the theory that the virus may have escaped from a Wuhan laboratory “absurd” and said repeatedly that “politicising” the issue will hamper investigations.

Tedros will brief WHO’s 194 member states tomorrow regarding a proposed second phase of study, WHO’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan said.

“We look forward to working with our Chinese counterparts on that process and the director-general will outline measures to member states at a meeting tomorrow, on Friday,” he told reporters.

German health minister Jens Spahn, who held talks with Tedros today, urged China to enable investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic to continue, saying more information was needed.

Spahn, speaking during a visit to the WHO headquarters in Geneva, also announced a €260 million donation to WHO’s ACT-Accelerator programme, which aims to ensure the entire world, including poorer countries, receive Covid-19 vaccines and tests.