China hit back at the US on Sunday over allegations from the White House that Beijing withheld information about the coronavirus outbreak from World Health Organisation (WHO) investigators.
In a statement on Friday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington had “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”.
“It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government,” he said in a statement, referring to the WHO mission investigating the origins of the pandemic in the central city of Wuhan.
“To better understand this pandemic and prepare for the next one, China must make available its data from the earliest days of the outbreak.”
China responded with a statement from its Washington embassy on Sunday, saying the US had already “gravely damaged international cooperation on Covid-19″ and was now “pointing fingers at other countries who have been faithfully supporting the WHO and at the WHO itself”.
While it welcomed President Joe Biden’s decision to reverse the Trump administration’s move to leave the WHO, the statement said China hoped the US would “hold itself to the highest standards, take a serious, earnest, transparent and responsible attitude, shoulder its rightful responsibility, support the WHO’s work with real actions and make due contribution to the international cooperation on Covid-19″.
Following allegations of Chinese withholding of data, investigation team member Peter Daszak tweeted: “This was NOT my experience on @WHO mission.”
“As lead of animal/environment working group I found trust & openness w/ my China counterparts. We DID get access to critical new data throughout. We DID increase our understanding of likely spillover pathways,” Mr Daszak tweeted.
The 10-nation WHO team last week departed Wuhan after nearly a month. It visited markets, hospitals and research centres.
These included the highly secure Wuhan Institute of Virology that has been the subject of speculation because of its large collection of bat virus specimens.
In their comments while in China, team members said they had some new insights into the origins of the pandemic that has killed more than 2.3 million people, but that major questions were still unanswered.