The World Health Organization (WHO) on Aug. 12 urged China to share raw data from the earliest COVID-19 cases, saying it is “vitally important to know how the COVID-19 pandemic began” and to set an example for establishing the origins of all future animal-human spillover events.
In a statement on Thursday, the WHO repeatedly stressed the importance of uncovering the origins of the virus, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, and called for the provision of “all data and access required so that the next series of studies can be commenced as soon as possible.”
A WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around the central city of Wuhan with Chinese researchers in January 2021 to investigate the origins of the pandemic.
In March, researchers said that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal and that “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway.”
However, a number of countries, including the United States, and some scientists questioned the findings, with critics noting that the Chinese communist regime had a significant role in their investigation and accused them of again engaging in a cover-up.
In July, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters 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.
Meanwhile, Danish scientist Peter Ben Embarek, who led the international mission to Wuhan, said a lab employee infected while taking samples in the field falls under one of the likely hypotheses as to how the virus passed from bats to humans.
The agency called for a follow-up probe into the origins of the virus, including further studies in China along with lab audits, which Chinese officials have recently rejected.