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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW YORK — The United States has joined calls for a more in-depth, transparent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, after an international probe in China earlier this year yielded little in the way of firm conclusions.
Speaking at the World Health Organization's annual summit for member states in Geneva on Tuesday, representatives from the US and several other countries emphasized the importance of identifying how COVID-19 began spreading.
"We underscore the importance of a robust comprehensive and expert-led inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, which is central to ensuring that we are prepared to mitigate and successfully respond to future outbreaks and prevent future pandemics," US representative Jeremy Konyndyk told the World Health Assembly, urging an "expert-led, science-based and independent analysis of origin."
The United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, and Japan were among other nations to call for more progress on the WHO probe.
A team of international experts sent in January to Wuhan, the original epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, reported that the virus was likely transferred to humans from bats via an intermediate animal. They also argued that a theory involving the virus leaking from a laboratory was "extremely unlikely," citing a lack of infected lab workers before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in December 2019.
But a new US intelligence report that found illnesses at a Chinese virology lab a month earlier has raised new questions about where COVID-19 may have originated.
China has long rejected the lab-leak theory, which was often touted by former US President Donald Trump. And while WHO member nations aren't suggesting that a lab leak was the source of the virus, many want the next stages in the probe to take a deeper dive into the virus' source.
Their calls come after a number of prominent international scientists, including Anthony Fauci, have suggested that a more scientific look at the theory was needed. Speaking at a fact-checking symposium on May 11, America's top infectious disease expert said he was no longer convinced that the pandemic originated naturally and that the international community should "continue to investigate what went on in China."
Despite numerous demands for a deeper second phase of the study of the coronavirus origin, the same diplomatic sensitivities that have stymied WHO's efforts in the past could curtail any firm commitments on a way forward.
"The purpose of the inquiry is not to assign blame, but to be grounded in science, to find the origin of the virus and the outbreaks, and to help us all prevent future global catastrophes from happening," Konyndyk said. — CNN
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