The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday a report that COVID-19 appeared in France in December, sooner than thought, could provide a “better picture” about the deadly virus.

“The findings in France or in any similar scenario, helps to better understand the potential virus circulation of COVID-19,” said Christian Lindmeier, a WHO spokesman, during a UN video briefing in Geneva.

“It’s not surprising, given the earliest cases of COVID-19 had symptoms onset already in early December.”

The US has repeatedly held China responsible for the virus outbreak that has claimed more than 252,000 lives worldwide.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the US has “enormous evidence” indicating that the pandemic began in a lab in Wuhan, China, contrary to Beijing’s denials.

China had first reported the virus cases to the WHO on Dec. 31.

“Of course, if we have cases reported on Dec. 31 in some way, that means that there were traces earlier. That’s already been said. So, symptom onset in China was most likely for most patients in early December,” said the WHO spokesman.

He said that when medical staff or even a pathologist finds cases of “unspecified pneumonia” or something suspicious, that is the very reason why this “needs to be tested and checked again”.

“And this is very often how older cases which were not clearly labeled or identified beforehand, then in hindsight get retested, rechecked and identified.”

Last week, WHO’s executive director of emergencies, Dr. Mike Ryan, had said that the world health body was assured that COVID-19 is natural in origin, and it is vital to establish the natural host for the virus.

He was answering a question about the claim made by US President Donald Trump when he accused the WHO of being a “public relations agency for China”.

The US has the highest number of confirmed infections and fatalities worldwide, with more than 1.1 million cases and nearly 69,000 deaths. The world has more than 3.6 million cases.

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