Biden thinks Americans deserve ‘better information’ on Covid-19 after WHO report, says Psaki

Biden thinks Americans deserve 'better information' on Covid-19 after WHO report, says Psaki

“I think he thinks the American people, the world community, medical experts, doctors – all the people who have worked to save lives, the families who have lost loved ones – all deserve more transparency.” , said Psaki. journalists at a White House briefing.

She spoke shortly after the United States and 12 other countries issued a joint statement raising questions about the WHO report and calling for independent and fully transparent assessments, and the European Union called for better access for researchers and more in-depth investigation.

“They deserve better information,” Psaki said of Americans. “They deserve action taken by the world community to achieve this.” She then criticized China for its lack of transparency and called on Beijing to provide data and answers to the global community.

Four scenarios

The 120-page WHO report, released Tuesday, says a scenario where the virus spreads via an intermediate animal host, perhaps a wild animal captured and then raised on a farm, is “very likely.” The investigation did not find what other animal was infected with a bat – believed to be the most likely original source of the virus – and may then have passed it on to a human.

Another possible to probable scenario is direct transmission from one of the animals known to carry a similar coronavirus, such as a bat or a pangolin.

Two other scenarios were deemed unlikely. The report states that introduction through cold food products is a “possible route” and introduction through a laboratory incident was considered “an extremely unlikely route”.

There is no evidence to support the laboratory theory, and World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that the WHO team concluded it was of the “least probable hypothesis”.

Nonetheless, he said the agency would continue to explore this possibility.

“The team also visited several laboratories in Wuhan and considered the possibility of the virus entering the human population following a laboratory incident,” Tedros told Member States during a briefing on the report, according to a copy of his words.

“Although the team concluded that a lab leak is the least likely hypothesis, it requires further investigation, possibly with additional assignments involving specialist experts, which I am prepared to deploy,” Tedros said. . He added that he did not think the WHO assessment “was comprehensive enough. More data and studies will be needed to reach more solid conclusions ”.

Psaki said on Tuesday that “the analysis done so far by our experts – their concern is that there is additional support for a hypothesis,” without specifying which she was referring to. The WHO report “does not lead us to a better understanding or better knowledge than six to nine months ago of the origin. It also does not provide us with any guidelines or steps on how to prevent this from happening in the country. future, ”she said.

The WHO report, Psaki’s comments, and statements by the United States and its allies and the EU follow months of tension, particularly between the United States and China, over the origins of the coronavirus. China at first played down early reports of the virus, going so far as to censor scientists who tried to warn the public even as millions of Chinese spread across the country for the Lunar New Year celebrations.

Early WHO statements closely echoed those from China, putting the global agency’s imprimatur on flawed assessments. The WHO’s delay in first declaring the virus a public health emergency and then labeling it a pandemic has prompted Trump administration officials to question its credibility and independence. U.S. lawmakers have called for an investigation into whether China manipulated the WHO’s swift response, and Trump’s White House slashed funding for the organization, which the Biden administration has since reinstated.

Timeline of the coronavirus outbreak Highlights

Concerns about the independence of the WHO remain, however, and the reactions of diplomats from various countries and Tuesday’s statements made it clear that they are not limited to the United States.

A European diplomat said the presence of a WHO field mission and the report was “just a first step, we need further studies to come to a clear result as to the origin of the virus. and we need better access to data and samples ”.

Others stressed the need to learn clear lessons from the incident.

‘Not good enough’

“The joint statement is not as aggressive as it might have been under the previous administration, I guess, which made it easier to support, but the statement could have been harsher and the Chinese response the process was not good enough, ”said another European diplomat, who reflected the views of other envoys who spoke with CNN.

“The problem is, what do the next steps look like? If we don’t have an operational system to learn lessons and react quickly to problems, we will not have an operational system to protect people, ”said the diplomat. . “Where we’ve seen the world become healthier and safer is where you have a very clear system for learning lessons and dealing with issues very quickly and if we see a similar approach to China again. , we’re going to have another problem. it is unmanageable. ”

The governments of Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia and the United Kingdom have all signed the joint declaration with the United States.

While describing the work of WHO experts as essential to understanding how the Covid-19 pandemic began and spread, the joint statement highlighted the shortcomings of the agency’s report, describing it as “significantly delayed and lacking access to original and complete data and samples ”.

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“While regretting the late start of the study, the delayed deployment of experts and the limited availability of the first samples and associated data, we consider the work done to date and the report published today as a useful first step” , did he declare.

Jeff Zeleny of CNN in Washington, Sarah Dean and Nick Paton Walsh in London, and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report


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