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The US hopes that the WHO report on the origins of viruses is based on scientific evidence.

© Reuters. A 3D printed coronavirus model can be seen in front of an inventory diagram and the words Covid-19 shown in this illustration

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States expects the World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus pandemic to require further investigation, possibly including a return visit to China, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

Marc Cassayre, Chargé d’affaires at the US Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, also expressed hope that the WHO-led mission in downtown Wuhan would take place from January to February. Had access to the raw data and to the people necessary for an independent assessment.

The in-depth report by the team, made up of international experts and their Chinese counterparts, is expected to be released this week, according to the WHO.

“We are confident that it is science based and real progress for the world to understand the origins of the virus so we can better prepare for future pandemics,” Cassayre said at a press conference.

US officials expected more work would be needed to identify the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, he said. “That would likely, we would assume, require further study by the team, maybe travel to China, or have further discussion.”

The investigation was plagued by delays, access concerns and controversy between Beijing and Washington, who, under the administration of former US President Donald Trump, accused China of hiding the scale of the initial outbreak.

Some team members said China is reluctant to share important data that could prove the virus was circulating months earlier than it was first detected in late 2019.

Ben Embarek, a WHO official who led the mission, said at a press conference at the end of the visit that the virus likely came from bats, although it wasn’t certain how it got to humans. It also effectively ruled out a laboratory leak.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later said that “all hypotheses remain open” and promised full transparency.

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