Antony Blinken supports virus origin probe

  • Earlier this month, the WHO called for all countries to work together to investigate the origins of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. China has rejected plans for more checks on labs and markets in its territory.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken.(AFP)
US secretary of state Antony Blinken.(AFP)
Published on Jul 30, 2021 05:07 AM IST
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Agencies | , Washington

US secretary of state Antony Blinken met the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in Kuwait on Wednesday where he pledged his support to the UN agency’s investigation in China into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, the WHO called for all countries to work together to investigate the origins of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. China has rejected plans for more checks on labs and markets in its territory.

“The U.S. supports the @WHO plans for additional studies into COVID-19 origins, including in (the People’s Republic of China), to better understand this pandemic and prevent future ones,” Blinken tweeted after arriving in the Gulf Arab state.

The meeting with Tedros had not been on the US diplomat’s published schedule.

In a statement, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Blinken “stressed the need for the next phase (of the investigation) to be timely, evidence-based, transparent, expert-led, and free from interference.”

And he “emphasised the importance of the international community coming together on this matter of critical concern”, the statement said.

The UN health agency has been under intensifying pressure for a new, more in-depth investigation of how the disease that has killed more than four million people around the world first emerged.

The WHO was only able to send a team of independent, international experts to Wuhan in January, more than a year after Covid-19 first surfaced there, to help Chinese counterparts probe the pandemic’s origins.

Long derided as a right-wing conspiracy theory and vehemently rejected by Beijing, the idea that Covid-19 may have emerged from a lab leak has been gaining momentum. Beijing has repeatedly insisted that a leak would have been “extremely unlikely”, citing the conclusion reached by a joint WHO-Chinese mission to Wuhan in January.

But earlier this month, the WHO said a second stage of the international probe should include audits of Chinese labs, amid increasing pressure from the United States for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan.

The first human cases of Covid-19 were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

China said that such a proposal showed “disrespect” and “arrogance towards science”.

Blinken and Tedro also “discussed opportunities for collaboration to continue reforming and strengthening the WHO,” State Department spokesperson Price said.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021