World Health Organization (WHO) Ethiopian Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press briefing on Covid-19 Photograph:( AFP )
A team commissioned by the World Health Organization to investigate the source of the coronavirus in Wuhan in January concluded that it was 'extremely unlikely' that the pathogen originated in a top-security lab in the ground-zero Chinese city
The World Health Organization chief on Tuesday criticised the lack of data access from China for the study on the origins of COVID-19.
China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team, one of the team’s investigators has already said, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the global pandemic began.
"In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data," Tedros said. "I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing."
The conclusions that the virus origins remains incomplete likely means that tensions over how the pandemic started, and whether China has helped or hinder efforts to find out, as the United States has alleged, will continue.
A team commissioned by the World Health Organization to investigate the source of the coronavirus in Wuhan in January concluded that it was "extremely unlikely" that the pathogen originated in a top-security lab in the ground-zero Chinese city.
The WHO team's leader, Peter Ben Embarek, told a separate virtual press briefing on Tuesday that it was "perfectly possible" COVID-19 cases were circulating in November or October 2019 around Wuhan, potentially leading to the disease spreading abroad earlier than documented so far.
He said the team felt political pressure, including from outside China, but that he never was pressed to remove anything from its final report.
Covid-19 has killed more than 2.7 million people worldwide in the 15 months since it emerged, forcing governments around the world to introduce restrictions that have battered the global economy.
The probe was plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between Beijing and Washington, which under former US President Donald Trump's administration accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak.
The WHO declared on January 30, 2020, that COVID-19 constituted an international emergency, its highest level of alert.