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US joins more than a dozen countries with WHO COVID-19 study concerns

WHO World Health Organization
WHO Wuhan COVID-19 origin investigation
Posted at 2:56 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 07:45:01-04

GENEVA — The United States and more than a dozen other countries are expressing concerns about a World Health Organization study into the possible origins of the coronavirus in China, pointing to delays and a lack of access to samples and data.

A joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 published Tuesday says transmission of the coronavirus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and a lab leak is “extremely unlikely.”

It called for further study, and the WHO chief has said all hypotheses remain open.

After the study’s release, the State Department said 14 countries were calling for “momentum” for a second-phase look by experts and pointed to the need for further animal studies “to find the means of introduction into humans” of the coronavirus.

The countries expressed support for WHO’s experts and staff, citing their “tireless” work toward ending the pandemic and understanding its origins to help prevent a future one. But they said the study had been “significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.”

Critics say China’s government took too long to allow a WHO-convened team of experts into the country earlier this year.

The State Department said Australia, Britain, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Slovenia and South Korea released the joint statement.