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World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has delivered an unlikely attack on China, voicing concerns the nation withheld vital Covid-19 data from Western experts.
And he sensationally disputed remarks from both Chinese and Western experts from the mission to Wuhan earlier this year who dismissed the likelihood the virus had leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
He called on the theory to be investigated further, despite the highly-anticipated delayed joint report from the mission stating it was "highly unlikely".
“I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough,” he said on Tuesday.
"This requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy."
While some Western experts on the trip downplayed rumours of a lack of cooperation from the Chinese side in the aftermath of the visit, Dr Tedros said team members had revealed "difficulties" in accessing raw data.
He called on future collaborative studies to include "more timely and comprehensive data sharing".
Flinders University vaccine expert Nikolai Petrovsky previously told Yahoo News Australia the lab leak theory could not be dismissed by experts if relevant data on a study into a potential leak, had not been handed to experts. He questioned whether one had been performed at all.
The report revealed the main theory being entertained by experts is the virus originally transmitted from bats to humans through another animal.
According to the report, direct zoonotic spillover is "possible-to-likely," introduction through an intermediate host is "likely to very likely" abd introduction through cold chain products is "possible".
The experts also suggested, in the report, the importance of establishing a globally integrated database, tracing possible earlier COVID-19 cases, detecting animal species possible to be an intermediate host and further learning about the role of cold chain and frozen products in coronavirus transmission.
Australia expresses concerns over report
Dr Tedros voiced his frustrations as 13 countries, including Australia, issued a joint statement expressing their concerns in the wake of the WHO-China report.
His criticisms are his strongest yet and come as a surprise considering he has previously faced criticism from the US and others for a perceived lenience with Beijing over their handling of the original outbreak at the beginning of 2020.
Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who previously stated the US had substantial evidence the virus leaked from the lab, called the latest report "a sham".
He called on the US to once again withdraw funding from the WHO – a move the Trump administration made last year as they lashed the organisation for failing to hold Beijing accountable for allegedly covering up their inaction in the beginning of the pandemic.
While not unexpected, the inability of the WHO mission to conclude yet where or how the virus began spreading in people means that tensions will continue over how the pandemic started – and whether China has helped efforts to find out or, as the US and some experts have alleged, hindered them.
"The international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples," Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, Slovenia, the UK, the US and the European Union said in a joint statement.
The European Union called the study "an important first step" but renewed criticisms that the origin study had begun too late, that experts had been kept out of China for too long and that access to data and early samples had fallen short.
In a statement, Walter Stevens, EU ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, called for further study with "timely access to relevant locations and to all relevant human, animal and environmental data available".
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