Group including US, Japan and UK say the study was delayed and scientists lacked full access to data, as the WHO chief calls for a deeper probe into lab leak theory.
KATRINA YU: The World Health Organization may be facing growing international pressure over its newly released coronavirus report. But here in Wuhan where a pandemic started, people are pleased with its findings.
- [SPEAKING CHINESE]
- The WHO has authority. Western countries kept accusing China of causing the pandemic. This report shows China is innocent.
- [SPEAKING CHINESE]
- I believe the conclusions in the WHO report, but I think it came out too late. China has suffered a lot from the virus. It shows China is not guilty.
KATRINA YU: On Tuesday, the UN agency released a 120 page document detailing the results of a month long mission to China to study the origin of COVID-19. The team concluded the most likely source of the virus was a bat or other animal, and the least likely was a leak from a Wuhan government lab. The report also thanked the Chinese government for facilitating the visit
YANG TAO: [SPEAKING CHINESE]
- China has overcome difficulties to conduct joint research with the WHO. Our goal is to reflect our openness and transparency.
KATRINA YU: But critics say the mission was anything but open and transparent. Chinese government officials curated and tightly controlled the visit, chaperoning the experts at all times, and controlling what information they could access. Jamie Metzel says Beijing also vetoed participants on the mission. He drafted an open letter signed by two dozen experts, calling for a new international inquiry into China.
JAMIE METZEL: It wasn't an investigation at all. A two week study tour with very limited access to records, samples, and key personnel is not an entire waste of time, but it's not even remotely close to being the kind of full and unrestricted international forensic investigation, which we need.
KATRINA YU: The US and 13 other countries have signed a joint statement raising concerns about the report. WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued his strongest criticism of China to date, saying raw data was difficult to access, and the Wuhan lab leak theory required more extensive assessment.
The WHO says they never expected the mission to produce a definitive answer about the origin of COVID-19, and a second phase of research is required. But as international criticism builds over China's role in the study, they may find that Wuhan becomes increasingly like this former seafood market, blocked off and Impossible to access. Katrina Yu, Al Jazeera, Wuhan.