U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to conduct a second, more fully transparent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The WHO issued a joint statement with Chinese scientists in March after the agency led a four-week mission to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first cases of the coronavirus emerged in December 2019. But the U.S. and other nations raised concerns about the way the mission was carried out and the lack of cooperation from China.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also agreed that further studies were needed into the virus’ origins.
In a video message at the annual ministerial meeting of the WHO’s World Health Assembly, Becerra called for a second phase of the investigation to be launched “with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak."
Becerra did not mention China directly, but his remarks follow a Wall Street Journal report from Sunday in which U.S. officials are quoted saying three Chinese researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care in November 2019, a month before the first confirmed coronavirus case in China.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, senior White House health adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said in a recent interview he was also not convinced about the natural origins of the coronavirus and called for further investigations.