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China holds the key to understanding COVID-19 origins: WHO chief


World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus looks on as he speaks with the President of the European Council Charles Michel during the G7 leaders summit at Bavaria’s Schloss Elmau castle, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, June 27, 2022. Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS

The World Health Organization chief pressed China on Thursday to share its information about the origins of COVID-19, saying that until that happened all hypotheses remained on the table, more than three years after the virus first emerged .

“Without full access to the information that China has, you cannot say this or that,” said Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in response to a question about the virus’ origins.

“All hypotheses are on the table. That’s WHO’s position and that’s why we have been asking China to be cooperative on this.”

“If they would do that then we will know what happened or how it started,” he added.

The virus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, with many suspecting a live animal market to be involved, before spreading round the world and killing nearly 7 million people to date.

Data from the early days of the COVID pandemic, briefly uploaded to a database by Chinese scientists, gives information on its origins, including suggesting a role for raccoon dogs in the coronavirus reaching humans, international researchers said.

The WHO’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19, said the latest Chinese information offered some “clues” on origins but no answers. She said the WHO was now working with scientists to find out more about the earliest cases from 2019 such as the whereabouts of those infected.

She added WHO still did not know whether some of the research required had been undertaken in China.

The WHO has also asked the United States for original data that underpinned a recent study by the U.S. Energy Department that suggested a laboratory leak in China had likely caused the COVID-19 pandemic, she added.

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