Fourteen countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark and other European countries, said they shared “concerns” about the recent study convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the origins of COVID-19.
The international mission, which included 17 Chinese experts and 10 international experts, recently released a joint report following their month-long trip to China earlier this year.
They concluded that the most likely introduction of COVID-19 into the human population was through an “intermediate host” animal and said the likelihood of the coronavirus being introduced through a “laboratory incident” was “extremely unlikely.”
But London, Washington and several other capitals said they had “shared concerns” about the team’s report convened by the WHO.
Governments said the study was “significantly overdue” and said the expert team “lacked access to original and complete data and samples.”
“Scientific missions such as these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective findings and recommendations,” the joint statement said.
The declaration was signed by the governments of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told member states that the expert team had “voiced the difficulties they encountered in accessing the raw data.” He added that to understand the first cases, scientists would benefit from biological samples from at least September 2019.
“I hope that future collaborative studies will include a more complete and timely exchange of data,” said Dr. Tedros.
In a tweet, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the statement “supported a transparent, independent and science-led investigation into the origins of COVID-19” and highlighted concerns about the WHO study. .
“We call for a renewed commitment to access and transparency without delay,” Raab said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had expressed his concerns about the WHO study in an interview with CNN before the report was released.
“We have real concerns about the methodology and process that went into that report, including the fact that the Beijing government apparently helped draft it, but let’s see what comes out in that report,” Blinken told CNN.
“Our focus should be on building a stronger system for the future,” he added.
The joint statement said member states should support the World Health Organization and encouraged more research on animals.
It states that “a rapid, independent, expert-led, and unhindered assessment of origins is critical” to protect people against future pandemics.
Dr. Tedros said the study was “a very important start” but that all hypotheses were still on the table.
“We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism