Data withheld from team probing COVID in Wuhan -WHO

World Health Organization investigators spent four weeks earlier this year in and around Wuhan, China, to research the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, in remarks about the final report, the WHO's director-general said China withheld data from investigators.

The United States and 13 other countries on Tuesday promptly expressed concerns that the report was delayed and lacked access to complete data.

PSAKI: "The report lacks crucial data, information..."

White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki on Tuesday faulted China for not offering independent experts unfettered access:

“Well they have not been transparent, they’ve not provided underlying data - that certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation. The analysis performed to date, from our experts, their concern, that there isn’t additional support for one hypothesis. It doesn’t lead us to any closer of an understanding or greater knowledge we had six to nine months ago about the origin. It also doesn’t provide us guidelines or steps, recommended steps, on how we should prevent this from happening in the future. And those are imperative.”

The WHO report said the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that a lab leak was "extremely unlikely" as a cause.

EMBAREK: "There are areas where we had difficulties getting down to the raw data..."

WHO's mission leader, Peter Ben Embarek, told reporters that second phase studies were needed.

He said the team felt political pressure, including from outside China, but that he never was pressed to remove anything from its final report.

"In China, like in many other countries, there are restrictions and privacy laws that forbid the sharing of data, including private details to outsiders, in particular if the data are moving out of the country.”

Embarek also told reporters it was ‘perfectly possible’ the virus had been circulating in November or October of 2019 around Wuhan… potentially spreading to other countries earlier than what has been documented so far.

Video Transcript

- World Health Organization investigators spent four weeks earlier this year in and around Wuhan, China, to research the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in remarks about the final reports, the WHO's director-general said China withheld data from investigators. The United States and 13 other countries on Tuesday promptly expressed concerns that the report was delayed and lacked access to complete data.

JEN PSAKI: The report lacks crucial data, information.

- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday faulted China for not offering independent experts unfettered access.

JEN PSAKI: Well, they have not been transparent. They have not provided underlying data. That certainly doesn't qualify as cooperation. You know, the analysis performed to date from our experts, you know, their concern is that there isn't additional support for one hypothesis. It doesn't lead us to any closer of an understanding or greater knowledge than we had six to nine months ago about the origin. It also doesn't provide us guidelines or steps, recommended steps, on how we should prevent this from happening in the future, and those are imperative.

- The WHO report said the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that a lab leak was extremely unlikely as a cause.

PETER BEN EMBAREK: There are areas where we had difficulties getting down to the raw data.

- WHO's mission leader, Peter Ben Embarek, told reporters that second phase studies were needed. He said the team felt political pressure, including from outside China, but that he was never pressed to remove anything from its final reports.

PETER BEN EMBAREK: In China, like in many other countries, there are restrictions on-- and privacy laws that forbid the sharing of data, including private details to outsiders, in particular if the data are moving out of the country.

- Embarek also told reporters it was "perfectly possible" the virus had been circulating in November or October of 2019 around Wuhan, potentially spreading to other countries earlier than what has been documented so far.