14 countries express ‘shared concerns’ over WHO report on Covid-19 origins

Updated on Mar 31, 2021 12:03 AM IST
A group of 14 nations including the US, Britain, Japan, Australia and Canada has expressed “shared concerns” with a WHO-backed study on the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak in China
A file photo taken on January 25, 2020 shows medical staff arriving with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, China. (AFP)
A file photo taken on January 25, 2020 shows medical staff arriving with a patient at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, China. (AFP)
ByYashwant Raj

A group of 14 countries including the US, Britain, Japan, Australia and Canada has expressed “shared concerns” with a WHO-backed study on the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak in China and said they supported a “independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence” of the pandemic.

They also said the report was “significantly delayed” and added that it “lacked access to complete, original data and samples”, pointing to a lack of cooperation and transparency from China, with naming it.

They did not, however, directly reject the report and said they remained committed to working with the World Health Organization.

“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 14 countries said in a joint statement.

The countries are Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, Slovenia, Britain and the US.

“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 towards 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,” they added.

The report released earlier on Tuesday suggests the deadly virus jumped from bats to other animals to humans. Interestingly, it discounts as “extremely unlikely” the possibility that the coronavirus escaped from a lab - a theory that many experts believe, including Robert Redfield, former US head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Noting the WHO’s mission to advance global health security, the 14 countries expressed full support for its staff and experts, saying that “with such an important mandate, it is equally 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”.

They added that “there must now be a renewed commitment by the WHO and all member states to access, transparency and timeliness”.

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