14 nations pledge to work with WHO to find COVID origin

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ANKARA

Several countries have committed to working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and international experts to understand the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a joint statement on Tuesday.

Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Slovenia, South Korea, the UK and the US said they support a transparent and independent analysis and evaluation of the origins of the virus

“In this regard, we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China, while at the same time reinforcing the importance of working together toward the development and use of a swift, effective, transparent, science-based, and independent process for international evaluations of such outbreaks of unknown origin in the future,” the statement said.

“The mission of the WHO is critical to advancing global health and health security, and we fully support its experts and staff and recognize their tireless work to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, including understanding how the pandemic started and spread,” it said.

These 14 countries said they are concerned that the international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.

“We share these concerns not only for the benefit of learning all we can about the origins of this pandemic, but also to lay a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises,” the statement said.

They said scientific missions should be able to work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.

“In a serious outbreak of an unknown pathogen with pandemic potential, a rapid, independent, expert-led, and unimpeded evaluation of the origins is critical to better prepare our people, our public health institutions, our industries, and our governments to respond successfully to such an outbreak and prevent future pandemics,” they said.

“It is critical for independent experts to have full access to all pertinent human, animal, and environmental data, research, and personnel involved in the early stages of the outbreak relevant to determining how this pandemic emerged. With all data in hand, the international community may independently assess COVID-19 origins, learn valuable lessons from this pandemic, and prevent future devastating consequences from outbreaks of disease,” they added.

The White House separately said China refused to fully cooperate with the WHO’s fact-finding mission, alleging Beijing has not been transparent and failed to hand over critical underlying data regarding the virus’ origins.

“That certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

The report, Psaki said, “doesn’t lead us to any closer of an understanding, or greater knowledge than we had six to nine months ago about the origin. It also doesn’t provide us guidelines or recommended steps about how we should prevent this from happening in the future.”

“And those are imperative,” she added.

*Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Washington

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