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WHO asks China to be ‘transparent,’ provide raw data on COVID-19 origins

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The head of the World Health Organisation said on Thursday that investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread there and urged it to be more transparent.

A WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around the central city of Wuhan with Chinese researchers and said in a joint report in March that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal.

It said that “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway,” but countries including the United States and some scientists were not satisfied.

Read more: WHO says extra vaccines should go to poor nations, not booster shots

“We ask China to be transparent and open and to cooperate,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Thursday.

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“We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened,” he said.

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China has called the theory that the virus may have escaped from a Wuhan laboratory “absurd” and said repeatedly that “politicizing” the issue will hamper investigations.

Tedros will brief WHO’s 194 member states on Friday regarding a proposed second phase of study, WHO’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan said.

“We look forward to working with our Chinese counterparts on that process and the director-general will outline measures to member states at a meeting tomorrow, on Friday,” he told reporters.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who held talks with Tedros on Thursday, urged China to enable investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue, saying more information was needed.

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Spahn, speaking during a visit to the WHO headquarters in Geneva, also announced a 260 million euro ($307 million) donation to WHO’s ACT-Accelerator program, which aims to ensure the entire world, including poorer countries, receive COVID-19 vaccines and tests.

— Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Kirsti Knolle and Stephanie Nebehay

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