National security adviser says it is imperative World Health Organization report be free of China’s intervention
The Wall Street Journal
By Alex Leary Feb. 13, 2021 11:53 am ET
WASHINGTON—The Biden administration issued a formal statement criticizing China over refusing to provide World Health Organization pandemic investigators with data on early Covid-19 cases that could help explain how the virus spread.
“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,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement issued on Saturday. “It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government.”
“To better understand this pandemic and prepare for the next one, China must make available its data from the earliest days of the outbreak,” Mr. Sullivan said.
The WHO investigators are part of a team that this past week completed a monthlong mission in China aimed at determining the origins of the pandemic. Chinese authorities refused requests to provide raw data on 174 cases of Covid-19 that they have identified from the early phase of the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.
The Chinese provided their own analysis of data and information, saying that they had found no evidence of the virus. But the WHO team wasn’t allowed to view the raw underlying data on those studies, which could allow them to conduct independent analysis on how early and how extensively the virus began to spread in China, team members told The Wall Street Journal, describing heated conversations.
China has come under criticism from many foreign governments and scientists for a lack of transparency, and the U.S. State Department said this past week it wants to see data underlying the WHO probe.
The WHO team’s leader, Peter Ben Embarek, said on Tuesday that the virus most likely spread to a human from an animal, rather than from a laboratory accident. He also said the virus could have come from outside China via frozen food.
Beijing—which has repeatedly suggested that the virus came from outside China, most likely through imported frozen food—welcomed the findings and called for other countries, including the U.S., to invite the WHO to conduct similar investigations.
But the U.S. said it saw no alternative source and called for greater transparency from China.
President Biden quickly moved to re-engage the U.S. with the WHO after the Trump administration withdrew over criticism of its ties to China, seeking to end a 72-year-old membership. “They’re a puppet of China,” Mr. Trump said. “They give us a lot of bad advice.”
Mr. Sullivan on Saturday said the WHO’s mission has never been more important. “But re-engaging the WHO also means holding it to the highest standards. And at this critical moment, protecting the WHO’s credibility is a paramount priority.”
He added: “Going forward, all countries, including China, should participate in a transparent and robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies—so that the world learns as much as possible as soon as possible.”
The Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.