“Secretary Blinken affirmed US support for WHO’s plans to conduct additional studies on the origins of COVID-19, including the People’s Republic of China, to better understand the current pandemic and prevent it from futures, ”State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. . Blinken “stressed the need for the next phase to be timely, evidence-based, transparent, expert-led, and interference-free,” Price said.
The coronavirus is one of several areas of stress between China and the US. As the two try to recalibrate and balance an increasingly fragile relationship, the Biden administration has worked to move closer to Beijing with a united front of allies.
On Wednesday, Blinken also “stressed the importance of meeting the international community on this issue of critical concern and reiterated our support for a broader multilateral approach to global health security,” the statement continued.
For its part, Beijing said last week that it would not participate in a second investigation into the origins of the pandemic and refuted allegations of denying access by WHO researchers to locations or data during the first investigation of the pandemic. world health organization. Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, told a July 22 press conference in Beijing that he was “surprised” to see the laboratory leaked as a research target in the second phase of the investigation.
“In some respects, the WHO’s plan for the next phase of research into the origin of the coronavirus does not respect common sense and is against science. It is impossible for us to accept that plan,” he said.
Most scientists studying coronaviruses who have investigated the origins of the pandemic say the evidence strongly supports a natural origin, a thesis that reinforces current intelligence, sources told CNN. This does not rule out the possibility that the virus was the result of an accidental leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where research on coronavirus in bats was being conducted, although many scientists familiar with the research say that this leak is unlikely.
But the same month, the WHO released the report, a member of the WHO team who helped oversee the original research said the theory that the virus had leaked from a laboratory Wuhan “did not receive the same depth of attention and work” as the hypothesis that jumped at people from an animal.
A growing number of Western nations began to question the completeness of the original report, in part because Beijing had refused to cooperate with the investigation.
“I have asked for areas of further research that may be needed, including questions specific to China,” Biden said at the time, saying he had asked for help from U.S. national labs and other agencies. Biden noted at the time that Western observers had not yet been granted access to key Chinese laboratories to determine “whether it was a disorderly experiment.”
“We call on China to be transparent and open and to cooperate,” he said at a news conference. “We owe it to the millions who suffered and the millions who died to find out what happened.”
At Wednesday’s meeting in Kuwait, Blinken and Tedros also discussed ways to work together “to continue reforming and strengthening the WHO, while building greater preparedness for the global pandemic and overall response capacity,” Price said .
Biden announced his first day in office retracting the Trump administration’s May decision to withdraw from the WHO.
Ben Westcott, Kylie Atwood, Katie Bo Williams, Natasha Bertrand, Zachary Cohen, Kate Sullivan, Donald Judd, Phil Mattingly and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.
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