February 13, 2021
Medical staff members carry a patient into the Jinyintan hospital, where patients infected by a mysterious SARS-like virus are being treated, in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on January 18, 2020. PHOTO BY STR /AFP via Getty Images
By Andrea Shalal and Michael Martina | REUTERS
WASHINGTON – The White House on Saturday called on China to make available data from the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, saying it has “deep concerns” about the way the findings of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 report were communicated.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that it is imperative that the report be independent and free from “alteration by the Chinese government,” echoing concerns raised by the administration of former President Donald Trump, who also moved to quit the WHO over the issue.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday said all hypotheses are still open about the origins of COVID-19, after Washington said it wanted to review data from a WHO-led mission to China, where the virus first emerged.
A WHO-led mission, which spent four weeks in China looking into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, said this week that it was not looking further into the question of whether the virus escaped from a lab, which it considered highly unlikely.
The Trump administration said it suspected the virus may have escaped from a Chinese lab, which Beijing strongly denies.
Sullivan noted that U.S. President Joe Biden had quickly reversed the decision to disengage from the WHO, but said it was imperative to protect the organization’s credibility.
“Re-engaging the WHO also means holding it to the highest standards,” Sullivan said. “We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them.”
Biden, who is spending his first weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in the mountains of western Maryland, will meet with his national security advisers on Saturday, a White House official said.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed WHO investigators, reported Friday that China had refused to give the World Health Organization raw, personalized data on its early COVID-19 cases that could help determine how and when the virus first spread in China.
“It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government,” Sullivan said.
“To better understand this pandemic and prepare for the next one, China must make available its data from the earliest days of the outbreak.”
No comment was immediately available from the Chinese embassy in Washington or the WHO.
Going forward, all countries, including China, should participate in a transparent and robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies, he said.
Reporting by Ted Hesson, Andrea Shalal and Michael Martina; Editing by Diane Craft and Daniel Wallis