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US, China take opposing stands on fresh probe into COVID-19 origins

ANI | Updated: May 26, 2021 16:37 IST

Washington [US], May 26 (ANI): The United States and China have taken sharply opposing positions over how to trace the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Washington calls for a new round of studies to be conducted with independent international experts.
On the other hand, Beijing told an annual gathering of the World Health Organization's (WHO) decision-making body on Tuesday that it considered the investigation in China to be complete and that the attention should now be focused on other countries, reported The Wall Street Journal.
The dueling opinions were expressed during a meeting of nearly 200 governments and displayed the political tensions hindering an effort to find the source of the virus.
In March this year, the WHO and China published a joint inquiry on the virus origins, which did not conclusively establish how or when the virus began spreading and did little to address Western concerns that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) bent the investigation to its advantage.
The WHO report determined that the possibility the virus came from a lab was "extremely unlikely," noting there was "no record" any lab had closely related viruses.
China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team probing the origins of the pandemic. Beijing has been accused of delaying access to international investigators for months after the initial outbreak, virtually guaranteeing that the lab had been deep-cleaned before any forensic analysis could be done.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the WHO is holding its annual World Health Assembly (WHA) - its second assembly during the pandemic - where US officials are trying to shape the next phase of the probe into the origins of the virus.

Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser for the COVID-19 response, said that a deeper inquiry into the pandemic's origins is a critical priority for the US.
"We need to get to the bottom of this and we need a completely transparent process from China. We need the WHO to assist in that matter. We don't feel like we have that now," he said.
However, these efforts are up against a push by China to have the WHO focus the probe into other countries, claiming that the virus may have originated elsewhere.
"Given the relationship between China and the US, there's a negligible chance that the Chinese would capitulate to US requests for a full and independent investigation. The WHO has no power under international law to require China to comply," said Lawrence Gostin, faculty director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, the WHO is expected to restudy the "dominant theory" that the SARS-CoV-2 probably originated and spread across the world from China's Wuhan lab, according to reports.
According to CNN, previously overlooked Chinese data on extensive screening of animals for coronavirus around the time the pandemic erupted is among several areas identified for further study by WHO scientists investigating the origins of the virus, as per a source.
The records are contained in a nearly 200-page annexe posted alongside the WHO panel's March report that received little attention among global experts at the time. "But the data may add weight to calls from China's critics for more transparency and to the WHO team's desire to return to the country for further studies," it said.
Meanwhile, the former head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that circumstantial evidence of Covid-19 originating in a lab in Wuhan continues to grow as researchers are yet to prove that the virus jumped from an animal to humans, as per a report in The Hill newspaper.
US former state secretary Mike Pompeo also claimed that every piece of evidence points to a leak of coronavirus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). He also said that the CCP must be held "accountable" for it. (ANI)