China did “little” to investigate the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan during the first eight months of the pandemic, according to an internal World Health Organization report from August that was reviewed by The Guardian.
“Following extensive discussions with and presentation from Chinese counterparts, it appears that little had been done in terms of epidemiological investigations around Wuhan since January 2020,” the report said, according to The Guardian.
Some WHO researchers returned from a fact-finding trip in Wuhan this month partially disappointed that China refused to share raw data about the first patients to get COVID-19.
Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious diseases expert who was on the trip, told Reuters that the WHO team requested raw patient data on 174 people who caught COVID-19 in December 2019, but Chinese authorities only gave them a summary.
The frustrations come as the Biden administration ramps up pressure on China to be more transparent about the origins of the pandemic.
“We need a credible, open, transparent international investigation led by the World Health Organization,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS Sunday.
“We do not believe that China has made available sufficient original data into how this pandemic began to spread, both in China and then eventually around the world.”
As the WHO and other researchers continue to investigate the origins of the pandemic, they are juggling multiple competing theories.
COVID-19 is widely believed to have jumped from a bat to an unknown intermediary animal, then to humans.
Researchers initially believed that the Huanan Seafood Market may have been where humans were first infected, as the market sold wild animals that are susceptible to viruses, but the discovery of earlier cases elsewhere has discredited this theory.
WHO researchers also investigated this month whether COVID-19 could have jumped from frozen food products, but many experts have downplayed this idea.
In the waning days of the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s press ofiice issued a fact sheet that stated: “several researchers inside the [Wuhan Institute of Virology] became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”
Furthur in the document, the State Department noted that the “U.S. government does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus—known as SARS-CoV-2—was transmitted initially to humans,” Pompeo wrote Jan. 15. “We have not determined whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.”
The WHO has repeatedly thrown cold water on the theory that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan though.
Peter Ben Embarek, the leader of the most recent WHO mission to China, said on Feb. 9 that the “laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population.”
Despite that, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said recently that all options remain on the table.
“Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded,” Ghebreyesus said at a press conference on Feb. 12, according to Reuters. “Having spoken with some members of the team, I wish to confirm that all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and study.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.