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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Source: Christopher Black/WHO via Reuters.
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  • The head of the WHO says inquiries into the origins of COVID-19 in China are being hampered by the lack of raw data on the initial days of its spread
  • A WHO-led report published in March found that the virus likely came from bats, but some scientists are not convinced
  • China maintains that the lab-leak theory is “absurd” and has repeatedly said that “politicising” the issue will hamper investigations
  • The WHO is expected to brief its 194 member states on Friday regarding a proposed second phase of investigations

The head of the World Health Organisation said on Thursday that inquiries into the origins of COVID-19 in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the initial days of its spread.

A WHO-led team spent four weeks in the central city of Wuhan and its surrounding areas, and said in a joint report in March that the virus had likely been transmitted from bats to humans via another animal.

It said that “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway”, but countries including the United States and some scientists were not satisfied.

“We ask China to be transparent and open and to cooperate,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on Thursday.

“We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to know what happened.”

China maintains that the lab-leak theory is “absurd” and has repeatedly said that “politicising” the issue will hamper investigations.

According to the WHO’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan, Tedros will brief organisation’s 194 member states on Friday regarding a proposed second phase of investigations.

“We look forward to working with our Chinese counterparts on that process and the director-general will outline measures to member states at a meeting tomorrow, on Friday,” Ryan said.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who discussed the matter with Tedros on Thursday, urged China to allow investigations into the origins of the pandemic to continue, adding that more information was needed.

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