India backs WHO's call for comprehensive probe into coronavirus origins
On Thursday, India joined the growing list of countries demanding a comprehensive probe into the origin of COVID-19. New Delhi said that it supports the proposal of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), to send additional missions for the investigation. Though India didn't name China, the statement made it amply clear that it was sending a message to Beijing.
China, the epicenter of the outbreak, invited global criticism for being secretive about the origin. Though the disease surfaced in late 2019, it was only in January 2021 that a team from WHO could visit Wuhan to study the outbreak. The findings of the team were subsequently released and it ruled out a possibility that the virus leaked from a lab.
The report suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 virus traveled from bats to humans through an intermediary animal. These findings had failed to placate countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Revealing that India also shares the same thoughts, MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "We share the need for a comprehensive and expert-led mechanism that would expeditiously investigate the origin of COVID-19 in cooperation with all stakeholders."
"We join other stakeholders in voicing their expectations that follow up to WHO report or further studies, including on an understanding of the earliest human cases and clusters by the WHO on this critical issue, will receive the fullest cooperation of all concerned," he said.
Bagchi also pointed toward Ghebreyesus's frustration over the difficulties the team faced in securing raw data. "We fully support the Director-General's expectation that future collaborative studies will include more timely and comprehensive data sharing. In this connection, we also welcome his readiness to deploy additional missions," he added. India sees the report as an important first step and understands the need for further data, he underscored.
To note, during a briefing on the report, Ghebreyesus had said that although the team concluded that a lab leak is "the least likely hypothesis," this matter necessitates more investigation. "This requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy," he had said. He also opined that the assessment wasn't "extensive enough."