U.S. expresses “deep concerns” over WHO probe into virus origin

FEB 16 , 2021. 19 hours ago – 14:30. KYODO NEWS

Members of a World Health Organization team leave their hotel for the airport at the end of their mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 10, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

WASHINGTON – National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Saturday the United States has “deep concerns” about the way the early findings were communicated following the World Health Organization’s investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

“It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government,” Sullivan said in a statement, calling for China to “make available” the data it holds from the earliest days of the outbreak.

Washington expressed concerns after President Joe Biden, who took office on Jan. 20, ceased the process of withdrawing the United States from the WHO, which former President Donald Trump had criticized as being China-centric.

Following the investigation launched in late January, a WHO expert rejected on Feb. 9 the possibility of the virus having accidentally leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.

The Trump administration had advanced a theory that the Wuhan Institute of Virology might have given birth to the virus, claiming some researchers there developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in the fall of 2019.

Sullivan said all countries, including China, should “participate in a transparent and robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies.”

China fired back in a statement released Saturday by its embassy in Washington, saying the United States “gravely damaged international cooperation on COVID-19” by pulling itself out of the WHO and is “pointing fingers” at the U.N. health body and countries supporting it.

The WHO team of experts returned from Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, on Feb. 10. It is expected to release a final report on its probe in the coming weeks.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during an interview Sunday with CBS News that he supports the Biden administration raising concerns about the WHO investigation.

“We need to see the data. We need to see all the evidence. So I thoroughly support what President Biden has said about that,” he said.