March 31 (UPI) — On the heels of the World Health Organization releasing the findings of its COVID-19-origins investigation, the United States, the European Union and 13 other countries called on the U.N. health body to conduct a second probe while criticizing China’s lack of cooperation.
In separate statements Tuesday, the United States with Australia, Britain, Canada, South Korea and nine other countries and the European Union urged for a phase 2 of the WHO’s investigation into the origins of the coronavirus while expressing concerns that China withheld information from the WHO investigators.
The long-awaited report written by WHO-appointed investigators and Chinese scientists was published earlier Tuesday, stating that the origins of the virus that emerged in China in December 2019 likely came from the Asian nation’s wildlife farms.
China has been criticized by the United States, as well as some other Western nations, for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and for allegedly covering up its initial outbreak of the disease — accusations that China has rebuked while also saying the virus may have originated outside its borders.
Following pushback from China, the investigation was launched in May after WHO members approved a resolution led by the European Union and Australia for an independent probe. However, the WHO investigators only arrived in mid-January following a series of delays.
After the report was released Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told member states during a briefing on the report that data was withheld from the experts.
“I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough,” he said. “I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing.”
The 14 nations issued their statement not long after Tedros’ admission. Without mentioning China by name, the countries called on it to grant “full access to pertinent human, animal and environmental data, research and personnel involved in the early stages of the outbreak relevant to determining how this pandemic emerged.”
The European Union issued a similar statement of support for a “science-based, transparent and independent WHO-convened global study” of COVID-19 while expressing regret over the first study’s late start, the delayed deployment of experts and “the limited availability of early samples and related data.”
Jen Psaki, the White House spokeswoman, told reporters in Washington, D.C., that President Joe Biden thinks Americans deserve better information than what was presented in the WHO report.
“The report lacks crucial data, information and access,” she said. “It represents a partial and incomplete picture.”
China has yet to respond to the calls for a second probe but a foreign ministry spokesperson said after the WHO report was released that they fully participated in the international investigation and now call for further origin probes to be pursued “in multiple countries and localities.”
“The Chinese side offered necessary facilitation for the team’s work, fully demonstrating its openness, transparency and responsible attitude,” the foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement.