The United States joined with a number of nations, including Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, to criticize a report from the World Health Organization on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, after the Chinese Communist Party had a strong hand in its production.
“Together, we support a transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence, of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the State Department said in a statement released Tuesday.
“In this regard, we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China, while at the same time reinforcing the importance of working together toward the development and use of a swift, effective, transparent, science-based, and independent process for international evaluations of such outbreaks of unknown origin in the future,” it said.
The report compiled by the WHO with the help of Chinese scientists concluded that COVID-19 likely spread to humans via animals and that it is “extremely unlikely” that it escaped from a laboratory.
The first cases of the coronavirus were recorded in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, China.
The study prompted bipartisan attacks in the US because of the Chinese Communist Party-led government’s role in the investigation and the belief that Chinese officials covered up much of the data.
“Scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings. We share these concerns not only for the benefit of learning all we can about the origins of this pandemic, but also to lay a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises,” the statement said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden supports the statement critical of the WHO investigation and added that it lacked transparency and crucial data.
She chided China for not allowing the investigative process to play out openly.
“Well, they have not been transparent, they have not provided any underlying data. That certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation. The analysis performed to date from our experts, you know, their concern is that there is an additional support for one hypothesis. It doesn’t lead us to any closer of an understanding or greater knowledge than we had six to nine months ago about the origin. It also doesn’t provide us guidelines or recommended steps on how we should prevent this from happening in the future. And those are imperative,” Psaki said.
The State Department statement called for the investigation into the origins of the deadly disease that has killed more than 2.7 million people worldwide and more than 550,000 Americans to continue.
“We underscore the need for a robust, comprehensive, and expert-led mechanism for expeditiously investigating outbreaks of unknown origin that is conducted with full and open collaboration among all stakeholders and in accordance with the principles of transparency, respect for privacy, and scientific and research integrity,” the statement said.
“We will work collaboratively and with the WHO to strengthen capacity, improve the global health security, and inspire public confidence and trust in the world’s ability to detect, prepare for, and respond to future outbreaks,” it continued.
In an interview Sunday on CNN, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sidestepped answering a question about whether the US should punish China for its handling of the coronavirus.
“The issue for us is to make sure that we do everything possible to prevent another pandemic even as we’re working through this one,” Blinken said.
“Or at the very least, to make sure that we can mitigate it in much more effective ways any damage done if something happens in the future.”
The statement was also signed by Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea and Slovenia.