China urged to co-operate and ‘be transparent’ in Covid origin probe – WHO hits out

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Officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO) called on Beijing to be more transparent with its data on Covid in a proposed second inquiry. China has furiously denied accusations it covered up the spread of the pandemic in 2019 and 2020.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said investigations into the origins of Covid were hampered by a lack of raw data.

After its controversial February inquiry in Wuhan, the WHO chief said China must be more transparent.

He told a news conference on Thursday: “We ask China to be transparent and open and to cooperate.

We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened.”

Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, announced Mr Ghebreyesus will brief WHO’s 194 member states on Friday regarding a proposed second phase of study.

He added: “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.”

Jens Spahn, German Health Minister, also called on China to make it possible for investigations into the origins of the Covid pandemic to continue, saying more information was needed.

He said: “I call on China to make it possible for the investigations into the origins of Covid to be continued.”

In January, a WHO team worked with Chinese researchers to investigate the origins of Covid in Wuhan, where the first case of the virus was detected in 2019.

In a joint report published in March, they found the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal.

It said that “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway”, disputing theories the pandemic originated due to a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

However, leading experts from the West have called for a second inquiry as the report did not answer questions on how the virus spread.

In May the US, the UK and twelve other countries accused China of “withholding access to complete, original data and samples” in a statement.

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China has blasted laboratory leak accusations as an “absurd story”, and has fired back at the US by suggesting the pandemic originated there.

In response to a Wall Street Journal report which found three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalised in November 2019, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian: “The United States continues to hype up the lab leak theory.

“Does it care about traceability or is it just trying to distract attention?”

As of July 15, 189,473,796 cases and 4,078,584 deaths from Covid have been reported, according to Worldometers.

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