WHO and US: China withheld COVID Info

Celeste Lynch, Lion's Roar Staff

Over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, the US along with thirteen other nations, including the UK, Canada, Japan, and Australia have issued a joint statement raising concerns about the credibility of the research and the independence of the findings of a 120 page joint WHO-Chinese report into the origins of the coronavirus. The report goes into details about molecular biology, epidemiology, DNA sampling, supply-chain tracing, but did not include a definitive conclusion over the origins of the virus. Along with the statement of over a dozen countries, the European

Union has issued similar concerns with softer language. This criticism comes after an admission from the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that investigators faced problems during their four-week investigation in Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 was first detected in December 2019. This comes as a shock to many as people have criticized Director-General Tedros for being too lenient on the Chinese government. Tedro appeared to contradict the study’s central findings by suggesting the theory that COVID-19 escaped from a Wuhan laboratory should be followed up, even though the report noted that the possibility was “extremely unlikely” and did not suggest further research on the theory.

The report also suggests that the virus originated from animals and was passed to humans. WHO conducted its investigation over a year after the initial outbreak came under intense criticism from the beginning. International scientists and the US government have questioned the credibility over the study, raising concerns over the Chinese government influence. The Chinese government has accused the United States of politicizing the origins of the virus. The report was drafted by a team of international experts as well as Chinese counterparts and was released on March 30. It provided a detailed analysis of the data collected by Chinese scientists and authorities from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, but did not include any concrete findings on how the virus reached humans. China has strongly rejected any blame related to its handling of the virus. On March 30, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that China has always been “a supporter for global scientific research on the source of the virus and its transmission routes”.

The statement continues saying that “the Chinese side offered necessary facilitation for the team’s full work, fully demonstrating its openness, transparency, and responsible attitude.” The China has also encouraged other nations to conduct studies regarding the origins of the virus. In a briefing, WHO chief Tedro admitted that the international experts faced problems with data access in Wuhan. Members of WHO had requested raw patient data on the early cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan in December 2019, but this request was refused and they were provided with a summary instead. The EU statement called the report a “helpful first step” but claimed to regret “the late start of the study, the delayed the deployment of the experts, and the limited availability of early samples and related data.”

According to the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, “the report lacks crucial data, information, and data access–and represents a partial, incomplete picture”. She continued that Chinese authorities “have not been transparent, have not provided underlying data”. The report made a series of recommendations for further studies, including testing for coronavirus antibodies in samples collected through blood banks before the Wuhan outbreak. However, critics of the Chinese government believe that they will not conduct further research as suggested by the report.