The WHO chief sets out five priorities for the next phase of the investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
The World Health Organization has said the second phase of an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus should include further studies in China and laboratory audits.
In a closed-door briefing to member states on Friday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus proposed five priorities for the next phase of the investigation.
They include “audits of relevant labs and research institutions working on the first human cases identified in December 2019,” the Reuters news agency reported, citing a copy of its opening statement from the WHO.
He also suggested that researchers should focus on “studies that prioritize geographic areas with the earliest indication of SARS CoV-2 circulation.”
And he called for more research into animal markets in and around the Chinese city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 was first discovered.
The UN health agency is under increasing pressure for a new, more in-depth investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Diplomats said China, which has opposed the return of international scientists, raised objections during the closed-door talks: “This plan is not a basis for future studies.”
A WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around the central city of Wuhan with Chinese researchers and said in a joint report in March the virus was likely transmitted. from bats to humans through another animal.
But countries, including the United States and some scientists, have demanded further research, particularly at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which conducted research on bats.
“Finding the origin of this virus is a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics. For that to happen, we expect China to support this next stage of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency,” said Tedros.
China has called the theory that the virus may have escaped from a Wuhan lab “absurd” and repeatedly said that “politicizing” the issue would hinder investigations.
At a regular press conference on Friday, when asked about Tedros’s earlier comments about the need for more data from China, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said some data could not be copied or China could abandoned because it was personal information.