The United States and 13 allies on Tuesday jointly voiced concern over a World Health Organization-backed report on the origins of COVID-19 and urged China to provide "full access" to experts.
The United States, in a statement with allies including Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan and South Korea, said that the WHO-backed mission to China "was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples."
"It is critical for independent experts to have full access to all pertinent human, animal and environmental data, research, and personnel involved in the early stages of the outbreak relevant to determining how this pandemic emerged," said the statement, without explicitly criticizing China.
"We share these concerns not only for the benefit of learning all we can about the origins of this pandemic, but also to lay a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises," it said.
The other nations signing the joint statement were the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Slovenia.
In a shift in tone from former president Donald Trump, who moved to leave the World Health Organization, the statement pledged that the United States and its allies would work with the UN health body.
The long-awaited report by experts appointed by the WHO and their Chinese counterparts said that the global pandemic likely came to humans from animals and that it was "extremely unlikely" the virus escaped from a laboratory in the city of Wuhan -- a theory promoted by some in the Trump administration.
President Joe Biden's administration has renewed concerns about China's transparency while saying it was waiting for scientists' findings before judging how the devastating disease emerged. (AFP)
Banner photo by HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP