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WHO urges China to facilitate study into origins of COVID-19 at Wuhan

The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to create a new advisory group to carry forward its search for the origins of COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to create a new advisory group to carry forward its search for the origins of COVID-19 by developing a global framework to study pathogens with pandemic potential.

The WHO expressed hope that all countries, including China, can collaborate and put in place the conditions for more missions to be sent to Wuhan to duly probe the "lab hypothesis."

In a statement issued on Thursday, WHO called for all governments to depoliticize the situation.

"To move forward, WHO calls for all governments to depoliticize the situation and cooperate to accelerate the origins studies, and importantly to work together to develop a common framework for future emerging pathogens of pandemic potential," the statement said.

China had last month rejected WHO proposal for a second phase investigation into the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic which includes audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first cases of the deadly coronavirus were detected in December 2019. 

Also read: China refused to share raw data on early Covid cases with WHO team

The virus is believed to have jumped to humans from live animals being sold for meat at the Wuhan market.

The WHO chief had said last month 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 its spread in Wuhan.

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

"Finding the origins of this virus is a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics. For that to happen, we expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency," Tedros said.

Phase two work would require studies of humans, wildlife and animal markets in Wuhan, including Huanan wholesale market. It would also require audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019," Tedros said.

The WHO team’s earlier report on the origins of coronavirus co-authored with China in March this year had come under severe criticism from several countries as members of the team had revealed that they had largely been confined to their hotel during the visit and were not allowed to make their own enquiries.

Also read: US asks China to come clean on Covid-19 data from Wuhan

Chinese authorities refused to provide World Health Organization investigators with raw, personalized data on early Covid-19 cases that could help them determine how and when the coronavirus first began to spread in China, The Wall Street Journal had reported citing WHO investigators.

There were “heated exchanges” during the visit between WHO and Chinese officials over the “lack of detail.”

In May, U.S. President Joe Biden had asked U.S. intelligence agencies which had gathered some evidence backing the possibility of a laboratory accident in Wuhan that could have led to the virus escaping. 

The WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. More than 205 million people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, and more than 4.3 million have died.