U.S. joins 13 other nations in criticizing WHO for a lack of transparency in China Covid report

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This photo taken on February 17, 2020 shows medical staff members working at an exhibition center converted into a hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province.
STR | AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The United States signed on to a joint statement with 13 other nations Tuesday criticizing the World Health Organization’s long-anticipated report on the origins of Covid-19.

In a joint statement, the governments of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, Slovenia, United Kingdom and the United States, wrote that the report “was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.”

“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,” according to the joint statement.

“Going forward, there must now be a renewed commitment by WHO and all Member States to access, transparency, and timeliness,” the group added.

While the WHO’s 120-page report, which was published Tuesday and produced by a team of international scientists, helped to advance the scientific community’s understanding of the deadly virus that swept the globe, it fell short of a full assessment.

“We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing Tuesday.

“Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again. No single research trip can provide all the answers,” he added.

At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration was still reviewing the WHO report, adding that the findings gave a “partial and incomplete picture.”

“The report lacks crucial data, information and access. It represents a partial and incomplete picture,” Psaki said. “There’s a second stage in this process that we believe should be led by international and independent experts. They should have unfettered access to data,” she added.

Psaki slammed Beijing’s lack of transparency when asked about China’s participation in the WHO’s report, which included at least 17 experts.

“Well, they have not been transparent. They have not provided underlying data. That certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation,” she said.

— CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.

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