14 countries raise concern over WHO report on COVID origin

A group of 14 countries has raised concerns over a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) into the origin of the coronavirus, citing delays and a lack of full access to data, while the agency’s own chief called for further investigation into a theory the outbreak was the result of a laboratory leak.

The widely anticipated study on Tuesday was based on an investigation by the agency’s fact-finding mission to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel virus was first detected.

After a four-week visit, the WHO team composed of 17 international experts concluded in the report it was “extremely unlikely” COVID-19 sprang from a lab leak, a position that was first advanced by the United States last year. China has strongly rejected such allegations.

Instead, the scientists said it was “likely to very likely” that the virus was introduced among humans through an intermediate host, and that it was “possible-to-likely” that the virus was transmitted to humans from animals.

Later on Tuesday, the 14 countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia and Israel said in a statement that they “fully” supported the WHO’s efforts to bring an end to the pandemic, including understanding how it “started and spread”.

But they added it was “essential that we voice our shared concerns that the international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples”.

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