EU chief wants China to participate in coronavirus origin survey, says probe is important ‘to the world’

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has joined calls for an investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, urging China and other countries to join the investigation to help prevent a recurrence of the crisis.

Lawmakers in several countries demanded an investigation into how the virus started and how far it has spread so quickly. It has infected more than 3.2 million people and has killed more than 233,000 to date, according to Johns Hopkins University.

China has rejected the requests, rejecting any suggestion that it mismanaged the epidemic when it appeared in the central city of Wuhan. The Chinese Communist Party has been accused of trying to cover up the initial epidemic and underreport the number of infections and deaths from the virus.

Von der Leyen told CNBC on Thursday that transparency was vital to avoid a repeat of the pandemic. “I think it is important for all of us, I mean for the whole world, it is important,” she said.

“You never know when the next virus will start, so we all want for the next time, we have learned our lesson and we have established an early warning system that really works and the whole world has to contribute to it. “

“One of the lessons learned from this pandemic is that we need stronger data, overall, and we need more centralized than an entity that analyzes this data so that the early warning mechanism is well better, ”added von der Leyen.

The head of the Commission did not directly mention China, but rather used the EU as an example. “At European Union level, we know that we need a more robust data system for such situations as we are currently seeing with the coronavirus,” she said. “And to build a system that is, that you can count on. “

EU-China relations have become a priority over the past week after the bloc released a report suggesting that Beijing – among other actors – has spread misinformation about the pandemic.

The report was reportedly watered down after Chinese threats, although EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell denied the bloc had resisted Chinese pressure. However, Borrell did not deny that China protested the report.

Asked whether the pandemic could harm EU relations with China, von der Leyen replied: “No, I don’t think so, because it is in our own interest. I mean, this pandemic has caused so much damage. “

“So it is in our own interest, in all countries, that we are better prepared next time,” she said. “We will, we don’t know when such a crisis will happen again, but we should be better prepared now. “

On Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Le Yucheng again denied that Beijing is in any way responsible for the pandemic. Le told NBC News, “China has been open, transparent and accountable in its COVID-19 response. We hid nothing and did not delay any effort. We have already released the schedule of how we shared information about COVID. -19. ”

Ursula von der Leyen, China, coronavirus, survey
This file photo shows the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, April 23, 2020.
OLIVIER HOSLET / EPA / AFP via Getty Images / Getty

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